Gifts, Wills, and Guardians: A Case Study (Part 3 of a 3-Part Post)

HNW Elder Law, Guardianship Law, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. a New Jersey Guardianship Attorney So far, in my last two blog entries, I have discussed the fight over Henrietta’s estate plan, who prior to being declared incapacitated in 1997, established an estate plan designed to benefit both of her boys and their families, and was specifically designed to place her one child’s, Howard’s, share in trust to bypass his wife Jacqueline.  After being declared incapacitated, the settlement placed on the record included a gifting plan that specifically includes a distribution to Jacqueline to be placed into trust for her, through which she could access a portion of the funds right away.  Jacqueline’s stepdaughter, Michele, contested this plan, arguing there was no settlement consented to …

Gifts, Wills, and Guardians: A Case Study (Part 2 of a 3-Part Post)

HNW Elder Law, Guardianship Law, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. a New Jersey Guardianship Attorney In my last blog, I started talking about the case of In re Cohen, which focused on the issue of a guardian making gifts on behalf of his or her ward that directly contradicted an estate plan created previously by a ward.  Our ward in this matter, Henrietta, specifically left one half of her estate in trust for her one son, Howard, and his two children, Douglas and Michelle, because she was afraid of her son’s new wife, Jacqueline, and what would happen if Howard received everything outright and made it all available to Jacqueline. Four years after the estate plan was made, Jacqueline and Howard retain a lawyer to …

Can You Exclude Your Ex-Spouse as the Guardian for Your Children After Separation/Divorce in Your Will/Trust?

HNW Elder Law, Estate Planning, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Guardianship and Estate Planning Attorney A client was referred to me by another attorney. She was the victim of domestic abuse and is currently in the process of getting divorced. She wants to prevent her husband from gaining custody of her children should she pass away. Her divorce attorney advised her that the father would have parental rights in the event of her death, regardless of what her Will says and that she would be wise to obtain a court order regarding same as part of her divorce. I was asked for my opinion. There is a reported New Jersey Supreme Court decision Watkins v. Nelson, 163 …

Gifts, Wills, and Guardians: A Case Study (Part 1 of a 3-Part Post)

HNW Elder Law, Guardianship Law, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. a New Jersey Guardianship Attorney A judgment of incapacity has legal significance in our judicial system.  The appointment of a guardian confers such power and responsibility onto this person that our courts, through the Surrogate, require this person to report in on the well-being of his or her ward, along with how the person’s money is being used.  While our statutes do give the power to the guardian of a ward’s estate (i.e. his or her property) to manage in the best interests of the ward, there are times where it is prudent for a guardian to file an application with the Chancery Division of the Superior Court to get its blessings to perform certain …

Can a Trustee of a New Jersey Trust Just Quit or Resign?

HNW Elder Law, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Trust Attorney You may be wondering what the procedure is for relinquishing duties as a trustee and appointing a replacement trustee. In short, the requirements for resigning as trustee are typically highlighted within the terms of the trust itself; however, absent such language, a trustee may successfully resign with either the consent of the beneficiaries or court approval. To appoint a replacement trustee, absent any language specifically detailing the appointment procedure, a motion and court approval are necessary. A trustee may not resign from his or her duties by their own act alone; instead, a trustee seeking to step down must receive either consent from the beneficiaries, or where …

The Marital Deduction: A Valuable Estate Planning Tool

HNW Elder Law, Estate Planning, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Estate Planning Law Attorney The federal estate tax marital deduction is one of the most important estate planning tools available to a married couple. The basic marital deduction rule is that, upon the death of the first spouse, the value of any interest in property passing to the surviving spouse is deducted from the decedent spouse’s gross estate. This means that the amount passing to the surviving spouse escapes taxation in the decedent spouse’s estate. There is no limitation on the value of property that can qualify for the marital deduction. By transferring sufficient assets to the surviving spouse in the proper manner, estate tax liability upon the first …

Sick of New Jersey’s Obscene Taxes? Then Consider Changing Your Domicile to Florida

HNW Elder Care Law, Elder Law, Estate Administration and Probate, Estate Planning, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a NJ Elder Care Attorney Sick of New Jersey’s high taxes and anti-business politics in the state legislature? Then join the growing list of ex-patriots leaving the garden state for Florida and the Carolinas. The most important factor in determining when your domicile has changed from New Jersey to Florida is your state of mind — what you feel inside. It has been stated often that your domicile is the place you always intend to return to whenever you leave. Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I received a telephone call from a woman who attended a seminar. She proudly stated that she had become a Florida domiciliary over the past …

Health: The Use of Discretionary Trusts to Protect Assets From Creditors and the IRS

HNW Elder Law, Estate Planning, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Asset Protection and Trust Attorney No one wants their life savings seized by creditors, but can you leave an inheritance to a child or loved one who has spending and creditor problems or has a huge unpaid bill to the IRS? The answer is yes, but you must be very careful. Take this case that recently presented itself to me at the office. My client’s child has a large IRS lien against them for unpaid taxes. Dad wants to leave his estate to his only child but doesn’t want the IRS to seize it. The issue presented is/was: Whether a completely discretionary trust with spendthrift provisions will have its …

Can a Person With Alzheimer’s or Advanced Dementia Legally Sign a Last Will Before Death?

HNW Elder Law, Guardianship Law, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann, a NJ Alzheimer’s and Dementia Attorney If an adult in NJ is legally incompetent and does not have an existing Last Will, is there a process for having a Will prepared or does the estate of the Alzheimer’s patient follow NJ’s Intestate laws? This question and the legal issue it raises comes up fairly often. Generally, when the adult is far into dementia, and/or Alzheimer’s, the family (generally the children) will want to avoid having the estate go into probate. Pursuant to NJSA 3B:12-49, a court does not have the power to make a will for an incapacitated person. If no Will has been executed prior to incapacity, then the estate goes …

What to Do When the County Surrogate Tells You That You Must Go to Court With a Gift to a Minor(s)

HNW Elder Law, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a NJ Trust Attorney Here’s a common scenario. A will bequeaths $5K ($5,000) to an infant great-grandchild, with the infant’s mother named as Trustee of the funds until age 21. The infant and Trustee live outside of New Jersey. The County Surrogate is demanding that the Trustee be bonded for 21 years at about $125 per year. Executrix (putative Trustee’s mother) says “drop dead” because the bonding premium will eat up half of the corpus of the Trust over the 21 year period. The statute reads that the Surrogate’s bonding requirement is permissive, meaning not mandatory, but the Surrogate refuses to acknowledge the burdensomeness of the requirement, and says “take it to …