Law Offices of AnnMarie Palermo-Smits Newsroom

ESTATE PLANNING, THE BASICS.

 

What exactly is estate planning? Many people are under the misguided conception that estate planning just entails dictating who gets your possessions after you pass away and that is where it ends. Others may think that if they do not have a Will, it is no big deal as their family will be able to tie up any lose ends that you may leave behind. This could not be further from the truth. While there are a wide variety of complex techniques and strategies that can be used when implementing an estate plan, here is more information about the three basic documents that are used while formulating an estate plan.

A Last Will & Testament is the cornerstone of any simple estate plan. A Will dictates a number of important after death items. First and foremost, a Will designates who you want to handle your affairs once you pass away. This person is called the Executor. The Executor handles a number of responsibilities during the process of handling your estate which is known as estate administration. Their primary responsibility, however, is to make sure that your final wishes are carried out based on what is written in your Will. The major importance of a Will is to be able to dictate what those wishes are! Whether you would like to leave everything to your children, in a trust for a grandchild, or to charities. A Will outlines the specifics of those decisions and the specific amounts that you would like to leave to each beneficiary.

The second document that comes into play is an estate plan is a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a document which will designate a person to govern your finances if you are unable to do so for any reason. The Power of Attorney includes various powers which can include the ability to perform banking tasks and paying bills. A Power of Attorney is effective as soon as you sign the document and lasts until you pass away. Whether you are on vacation and unable to respond to a financial issue or if you are incapacitated for any way, the person designated as your Power of Attorney is given the ability to be able to handle any financial issue that comes up.

The final player in an estate plan is a Healthcare Directive. This document allows another person to make all medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It also gives you the opportunity to decide if you would like to be kept alive by extraordinary measures if that time ever comes. Typically, when you go into a hospital for any matter, they will ask you if you have a Healthcare Directive. It is a vital document so that the hospital and doctors can assure that all of the steps they are taking are following your wishes for your healthcare.

As you can see, every one of these documents are plays an important in assuring that your wishes and best interests are always adhered to. Realistically, each of these documents benefits not only your wishes, but your family and friends who will need to deal with all of the ups and downs of whatever issues may come up when the time gets closer to make important decisions. It is important to make sure that all of these decisions are made long before any kind of a crisis comes up. Please call our office today at (973) 256-1927 to set up an appointment to begin making your estate plan today!

Could you be entitled to Veterans Benefits?

While still a very young country compared to others in the world, America has seen its fair share of war and conflict. Many of these wars were met with harsh criticism for entering into a foreign conflict at all.  Regardless of personal feeling and emotions, the men and women of the armed forces go where they are ordered to go and continuously put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we can often times take for granted. As those veterans get older, we often forget that they need our help just as much, if not more, then we needed their help all those years ago.

For most of the newer generations, World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam era, and the Gulf War are things that will only be read about in history books. However, there are still a large number of men and women that are alive today who served our country throughout this very scary time in global history. What happens to these men and women when their health costs begin to dramatically rise because they consistently need more care? Where do families turn when they need to find something to bridge the gap between the money that they have to pay for health care costs and the money that a home health aide or an assisted living facility needs to be able to properly care for their beloved aged veteran?

Many family members do not realize that there is a pension program available for veterans who have served during wartime conflicts. While there are certain standards that each veteran must meet to be able to become eligible for, there is a program offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that could certain help the veteran and the veteran’s family with being able to offset the ever rising healthcare costs. The highest pension amount that can be received through this program for an eligible veteran is $2,120 per month. That is an additional $25,440 help in medical expenses per year! Furthermore, this program is also open to the widow of a wartime veteran (the surviving spouse) as their medical expenses begin to rise. The maximum pension amount for surviving spouses is $1,149 per month which equals out to a yearly benefit of $13,788.

As previously mentioned, there are certain criteria, both medically and financially, that a veteran or surviving spouse must meet in order to be able to qualify for these benefits. For example, medically, the veteran or surviving spouse must have at least two activities of daily living. While there are a multitude of examples that can be used as examples of activities of daily living the main ones are needing help walking, toileting, or bathing.  The veteran or surviving spouse must also meet certain financial criteria as well. This is an aspect of planning that Ms. Palermo-Smits will review with the client and family during your consultation and discuss what is the best route to take to assure that you can become eligible for this benefit. Finally, the veteran must have served for at least one day during any war time conflicts.

Veterans have done so much for our country. Being able to give back to them is always an honor. Guiding them through a Veterans Aid and Attendance application is a way that the Law Offices of AnnMarie Palermo-Smits is honored to be able to provide to our veterans. Please call our office today at (973) 256-1927 to set up your consultation about this wonderful ben

A Welcome Addition

The Law Firm is proud to announce the addition of Scott H. Novak to our staff. Scott is an experienced tax lawyer with a Legal Law Masters (LLM) in taxation. His expertise will benefit our clients in many ways. We look forward to working with him and having him meet with all our clients.

NEW YORK OFFICE: NOW AVAILABLE

Our firm has opened a satellite office in New York City. It is located at 1180 Avenue of the Americas, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10036. Our main phone and fax numbers at the main office in Willowbrook, New Jersey should be utilized. Nonetheless, this new location will accommodate our clients in the greater New York area and is conveniently located just under Rockefeller Center on 6th Avenue. We look forward to accommodating your needs at this location, if necessary.

New York Estate Tax Changes!

Our firm has a very active estate planning business in New York, especially New York City, and we recently opened a New York office. We thought it would be helpful for our clients to understand that New York has followed a large trend among the States to reduce estate taxation levels and overhauled its estate tax laws effective April 1, 2014, more than doubling its previous estate tax exemption of $1 million. The new exemption will now rise gradually each fiscal year through 2019 when it is set to match the generous federal exemption, which was originally set at $5 million but increases each year based on inflation adjustments and is projected to be almost $6 million in 2019. The top estate tax rate in New York remains at 16% under the new law.

On one hand, the increased estate tax exemption will make planning much easier for a lot of people, but there is a new, rather large, surprising trap in the new law which requires careful planning.

New York’s new exemption schedule is as follows:

  • For deaths as of April 1, 2014 and before April 1, 2015, the exemption is $2,062,500.
  • For deaths as of April 1, 2015 and before April 1, 2016, the exemption increases to $3,125,000.
  • For deaths as of April 1, 2016 and before April 1, 2017, the exemption increases to $4,187,500.
  • For deaths as of April 1, 2017 and before January 1, 2019, the exemption is $5,250,000.

Thus, in effect, the estate tax exemption increases by $1.0625 million on April 1st of each year until 2017, when it reaches $5.25 million. These increases will allow far more assets to flow from a decedent’s estate to his or her beneficiaries free from estate taxation.

New York’s estate tax is applied in a unique manner. Under the taxation schemes of other states, as well as that of the federal government, once an estate is subject to the tax, only the amount that is over the exemption amount is subject to the tax. For example, if the estate tax exemption is set at fiscal year 2015’s $3.125 million and an estate is valued at $4.15 million, only the $1 million amount over the $3.125 million exemption standard would be subject to the estate tax. New York, however, taxes the entire amount of the estate once the estate is valued at an amount just 5% over the exemption limit. Estates thus face a cliff if their values exceed 5% of the exemption because New York will then tax the full value of the estate, not just the amount over the exemption like other states.

In addition to the tax cliff, New York, unlike New Jersey and the federal government, does not allow for portability whereby a surviving spouse can shelter twice as much without the use of technical trust provisions by using each spouse’s exemption amount. This aspect of New York’s law makes estate planning critical in and of itself!

When calculating the value of an estate, executors must include the value of money in bank and investment accounts, certificates of deposit, real estate, vehicles, personal belongings (e.g., jewelry, furniture), life insurance proceeds of policies owned at death, retirement accounts, and business interests.

If you’re a client and feel you want to take maximum advantage of estate taxation laws considering the New York law which became effective April 1, 2014, please call our offices to further discuss your planning options.

NEW Satellite Office: Rockaway, NJ

We are proud to announce the opening of our new satellite office located at 20 West Main Street, Rockaway, New Jersey 07866.  We will now not only have the capability of meeting with our Tax, Trusts and Estates clients at this location, we will also be servicing the real estate needs of our clients.  Our real estate paralegal, Jennifer Palermo, will be working exclusively with AnnMarie Palermo-Smits to take care of our clients’ residential and commercial closing needs as well as any leasing needs.

Rockaway Office Building

Managing Member Quoted in NY Times

In an article posted in the Real Estate section of the New York Times on June 28, 2013 and written by Constance Rosenblum titled “Mom and Dad, Let’s Talk Real Estate,” Managing Member, AnnMarie Palermo-Smits was quoted discussing what it’s like dealing with elder fraud up close and personal. Read a section of the article below.


Beware of Fraud

A world in which people are living longer offers greater opportunity for what is called elder fraud, and such fraud easily spills over into real estate decisions.

AnnMarie Palermo-Smits, a lawyer who specializes in estate planning, has seen elder fraud up close. She recalls the case of a client, a once-famous and still striking ballerina in her mid-70s. “She looked like a former dancer,” Ms. Palermo-Smits said. “She was slim and she wore only black.”

The woman had lived for decades in a white-glove condominium in the East 60’s, in a balconied apartment worth $850,000. Her husband had died, there were no children, and she was alone but for a sibling on Long Island.

“The trouble began when a woman in the building befriended her, tried to buy her apartment for well below what it was worth, and somehow became the co-executor of her will,” said Ms. Palermo-Smits, who is the chairwoman of the tax, trusts and estates department of Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, a firm in Paramus, N.J. “But once the contract was drawn up, we discovered that the so-called friend had serious legal problems. We also discovered that this ‘friend’ had tried to do the same thing with other people in the building.

“You try to do everything right, but how do you prevent people like this from charging down the wrong path?” Ms. Palermo-Smits said. “My client was vulnerable because she was old, lonely and pretty much alone.”

Her advice? “Always get independent legal counsel. Beware of outside influences. Most of all, beware of newfound friends.”


Article originally published in the New York Times Real Estate section on June 28, 2013.

Written by Constance Rosenblum. Click here to read the entire article.