Kenneth Vercammen, Esq is Chair of the ABA Estate Planning & Probate Committee and presents seminars to attorneys and the public on Wills, Probate and other legal topics related to Estate Planning and Elder law.

New clients email us evenings and weekends go to www.njlaws.com/ContactKenV.htm

Kenneth Vercammen is a Middlesex County trial attorney who has published 130 articles in national and New Jersey publications. He was awarded the NJ State State Bar Municipal Court Practitioner of the Year and is a lecturer for American Bar Association on Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples. He was a speaker at the ABA Annual Meeting attended by 10,000 attorneys and professionals.
To schedule a confidential consultation, call

Kenneth Vercammen & Associates, P.C.

2053 Woodbridge Avenue - Edison, NJ 08817

(732) 572-0500

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Hour & Networking Social July 15, 2016 Professionals, Attorneys, 5k runners, Friends, Clients, Law Enforcement invited to Happy Hour & Networking Social July 15, 2016

 Happy Hour & Networking Social
July 15, 2016
Professionals, Attorneys, 5k runners, Friends, Clients, Law Enforcement invited to Happy Hour & Networking Social
July 15, 2016 Friday
at Bar Anticipation
703 16th Avenue Lake Como/ Belmar, NJ 07719
   Free !    Sorry is this is dup but we did not want to miss anyone
5:30-7:55PM Hot & Cold Buffet
   The reduced price Happy Hour is 6-7PM with $1.50 House Drink, Bud/BudLt draft & House Wine Special
      Outdoor bands, prize give aways. Bring your friends. Pass this along. Please bring a canned food donation for a community food bank, continuing to provide food and help to individuals in need.
      Email Ken Vercammen's Law Office so we can put your name on the VIP list for wristbands.     VercammenLaw@Njlaws.com
   If your group, non-profit or organization wishes to co-sponsor the next networking happy hour, please contact
KENNETH VERCAMMEN, Esq.
2053 Woodbridge Ave. Edison, NJ 08817  

2016 Co-sponsors NJ State Bar Association Municipal Court Section,
Criminal Law Section
Young Lawyers Division
LGBT Rights Section
Family Law Section
Minorities in the Profession Section MIPS
Immigration Law Section
Taxation Law Section
Women in the Profession Section WIPS
Labor and Employment Law Section  
Solo and Small-Firm Section
Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section
Federal Practice and Procedure Section
Business Law Section
Local Government Law Section
Banking Law Section
Dispute Resolution Section

Special Committee for Paralegals
Insurance Defense Special Committee
Special Civil Part Special Committee,
Lawyers In Transition Special Committee,
Automobile Litigation and No Fault Special Committee
Privacy Law Special Committee,
Fidelity and Surety Law Committee,

Monmouth County Bar Association
New Jersey Defense Association  
NJ Institute of Local Government Attorneys
Retired Police & Fire Middlesex Monmouth Local 9
Greater Monmouth Chamber of Commerce
Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
__________________

Co-Sponsors from 2015 party also were
, NJAWBO (NJ Association of Women Business Owners), , NJ Law Librarians Association NJLLA, Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Elder and Disability Law Section
Insurance Law Section
Product Liability and Toxic Tort Section
Diversity Standing Committee  
Government and Public Sector Lawyers Special Committee,
Antitrust Law Special Committee


Friday, April 8, 2016

Intestacy [Someone died and no Will]

Intestacy  [Someone died and no Will]

Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of his or her enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration; alternatively where such a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of the estate, the remaining estate forms the "Intestate Estate". Intestacy law, also referred to as the law of descent and distribution or intestate succession statutes, refers to the body of common law that determines who is entitled to the property from the estate under the rules of inheritance.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intestacy
More details at http://www.njlaws.com/litigation_involving_intestacy.html

INTESTACY
The estate of every NJ resident must be settled with the County Surrogate's Court unless the deceased owned no assets individually in New Jersey. Except in that limited circumstance, an estate must be presented to the County Surrogate before disbursement of the deceased's assets can occur. This estate settlement requirement applies whether the person died with or without a will. See http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/Surrogate/BCSC_Intest.htm
The estate of a person who dies without a will is called an "intestate" estate.   The Administrator's responsibilities include notifying the deceased's next of kin of his/her death, assembling the estate's assets and disbursing those assets according to law. The applicant need not be an attorney. In fact, most applicants complete the entire Surrogate's Court process without the need for an attorney. However, if you feel more comfortable bringing an attorney to the Surrogate's Court, you may certainly do so.
To apply to be the Administrator of an intestate estate, a person must bring the following to the County Surrogate's Court: (1) The original death certificate with raised seal; (2) An estimate of the gross value (but not an item-by-item description) of the estate covering all real estate and non-real estate (personal) assets; (3) The complete names and addresses of the deceased's next of kin; (4) A blank New Jersey check or cash for fees-the average fees, excluding bonding costs, are $150-$250); (5) A formal, written Renunciation of the right to serve as the estate's Administrator signed (in the presence of a Notary Public) by every person, if any, who has statutory preference over the applicant to serve as the estate's Administrator.
As a matter of law, the family members of the deceased have the first right to serve as the Administrator, in the following order of preference: spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters. Should no family member seek appointment, then a creditor or anyone else may do so. A person who renounces the right to serve as Administrator may do so without disclaiming the right to receive any of the deceased's assets. (In contrast, by having a will, a person can choose the individual(s) he/she wishes to take charge and distribute his/her estate's assets (the "Executor(s)"). Source: See http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/Surrogate/BCSC_Intest.htm
Once the above-described five items have been received, the Surrogate will appoint the applicant as the Administrator of the intestate estate. In most cases, the Administrator must be bonded until the estate has been properly assembled and distributed. This bonding fee is in addition to the $150-250 in average fees paid by the person seeking to be approved as Administrator. Bonding is required to protect the creditors and beneficiaries of the estate from the possibility that the Administrator will misuse his/her authority to their financial detriment.
There are, however, exceptions to the bonding requirement for intestate estates. If the deceased has a surviving spouse and no surviving parent or child, the surviving spouse need not post a bond. If the deceased left a surviving spouse and a surviving parent or child, then there will be no bond required of the surviving spouse for the first $50,000 of the estate and one-half of the remainder. Otherwise, the cost of bonding is fixed on the value of the estate. Bond premiums are currently $100 per year, if the estate is worth $18,000 or less; $525 per year, if the estate is worth $100,000 or less. (By way of comparison, a person can have a simple Will drafted by an attorney for $250-$350 and the will can state that the person taking charge of the estate's assets, the "Executor", shall serve without any bond.)
After the Administrator has been appointed and bonded, the Surrogate's Court will then issue Surrogate's Certificates (also known as Letters of Administration) that are used to assemble and transfer the intestate's assets. It is recommended that you order several copies of these Certificates, especially if the assets are being held by several banks, brokerage firms, pension plans and insurance companies. They will also be needed to sell or transfer all real estate assets. Along with the Certificates, a General Information brochure regarding the New Jersey Inheritance Tax is sent by the Surrogate's Court to the Administrator by mail within 5-7 business days of his/her appointment.
Administration of the estate cannot be first completed until several additional steps are taken. First, the Administrator must gather the assets, pay the just debts and taxes, and then distribute the balance of the estate's assets in accordance with the law. Second, once all assets of the estate have been disbursed, the Administrator must have each recipient sign a Refunding Bond. The Administrator should also have the recipient(s) sign a Release at the same time. The Surrogate's Court provides, without charge, a form combining a Release and Refunding Bond. The executed Release and Refunding Bond (signed by the recipient in the presence of a Notary Public) should then be filed with the Surrogate's Court at a cost of $10.00 per Bond.
Source: See http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/Surrogate/BCSC_Intest.htm
      The laws of the State of New Jersey provide for the assets of the intestate estate to be distributed to the next of kin by "intestate succession" as follows:
I. If you die leaving a spouse but no children, grandchildren or parents, the surviving spouse receives all.

II. If you die leaving a spouse and children who are also the children of the spouse, the spouse receives the first $50,000 plus one-half of the balance of the estate. The children receive the other one-half of the balance divided equally amongst them. If one of your children dies leaving children then your grandchildren take their deceased's parent's share. However, if all of your children have died before you then all of your grandchildren will share equally.

III. If you die leaving a spouse and children who are not also the children of that spouse, the spouse receives one-half, the children receive one-half divided equally and, if applicable, the grandchildren take their deceased parent's share unless all the children are deceased. Should that occur, all the grandchildren share equally.

IV. If you die leaving children but no spouse, the children receive all divided equally among them. If there are grandchildren, they take their deceased parent's share, unless all the children are deceased. In that event, all the grandchildren share equally.

V. If you die leaving a spouse but no children or grandchildren, and if your mother or father is still living, your spouse receives the first $50,000 of your estate plus one-half of the balance and your parents (or parent, if only one survives you) receives the remainder.

VI. If you die leaving no spouse, no children, no grandchildren, no grandchildren and one or both of you parents survive you, the surviving parent or parents take all divided equally. If no parent survives, then your surviving brothers and sisters receive all divided equally.

VII. If you die leaving no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers or sisters, then the estate will be divided equally among those people surviving you in the closest degree of kinship (starting with nieces and nephews) until an heir is found if possible.

VIII. If you die leaving no surviving next of kin without a Will, your estate assets escheat to the State of New Jersey.
In a related manner, in addition to the appointment of an Administrator for an intestate estate, if the count resident dies leaving a child under 18 years of age and there is no other legal guardian for that minor child, then the County Surrogate must appoint that minor child's guardian. The procedure for this appointment is similar to the application and bonding process for an Administrator in the sense that the law gives certain family members priority to serve as guardian of the deceased's minor child, while allowing those lower on the priority ladder to serve as long as the appropriate written renunciations have been received by the Surrogate. (In contrast, if the person who died had a will, the deceased could have designated the guardian(s) of his/her minor child in the will and this designation would have been binding upon the Surrogate and all others.

Source: See http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/Surrogate/BCSC_Intest.htm Copyright 2016 Vercammen Law

Monday, January 18, 2016

Estate Planning Break Up.

Estate Planning  Break Up.
         By Kenneth A. Vercammen, Esq. Author ABA’s “Wills & Estate Administration” book
          If you do not write a Will, the government has already written one for you. Your assets go to whoever a state law says receives the assets, or to the government itself!
          As average Americans, we work 80,000 hours in a lifetime, or 45 to 55 years. In the havoc after a break up, many persons forget to have a Will done to assure assets and decisions are taken out of the hands or the ex spouse and ex spouse’s family.
         In spite of all our resources and the assets we earn during our lifetime, the vast majority of Americans do not take the time to create the legal instructions to guide the court or a guardian upon their death. National statistics indicate that more than 50% of Americans foolishly die without leaving a Will. In the absence of a Will  or other legal arrangement to distribute property at death, the problems often arise and a Judges decides who gets custody of your children and handles your money. This process is called the law of intestacy. The result can be lengthy delays in the distribution of your estate, court battles between relatives and your children being raised by someone you do not favor. Without a Will, your family will have to pay substantial costs for accountants, attorneys, bonding companies and probate fees.
         In planning, make sure your assets go to your loved ones or favorite charity, not an "ex". Therefore, we advise our separated or divorced clients to do the following:

1)            Have an Estate Planning Law attorney prepare a Will to distribute your assets to the people you care about the most. If you already have a Will, prepare a new Will and have the old Will revoked. (Your estate planning attorney will explain this to you.) Usually a new executor is selected, who will also serve as funeral agent.
          Although in many states under law a divorce removes the ex spouse as a beneficiary, it does not remove the ex as executor or receiving assets under a bank POD or joint account. Don’t ever use with a cheap online form that often is not filled out correctly. Self prepared documents are often not witnessed right and are not admitted to probate. Have an experienced attorney prepare the estate planning documents who will do it right. I could change my car oil and repair the lawnmower, but I now prefer an experienced mechanic do that. You can also create specific bequests so nice jewelry or family heirlooms go to a selected child. Otherwise the executor can just sell them at the pawn shop. You can also direct in your Will a child be excluded from inheriting. Example- they testified against you in divorce court.
        
2)  Prepare a Power of Attorney to select someone to handle your finances if you become disabled. Have your old Power of Attorney revoked. This means your attorney or you should send notices to banks and your accounts to indicate the prior Power of Attorney is invalid. If you have children over age 18, have your attorney prepare a Power of Attorney for the  over 18 children so the custodial parent can still have access to their records and pay their bills if they are in an accident.
3)  Select a new beneficiary on assets you may own, such as stocks, transfer upon death brokerage accounts, bank accounts, IRA, retirement accounts, 401k, payable upon death accounts POD , and other financial assets. Make sure you see the actual change in beneficiary in writing. Don’t rely on a phone call from the company that accounts are revised. Even if a court approved divorce decree states that a beneficiary should be changed, make sure you have changed the beneficiary designations. Remember, even a new Will does not change account beneficiaries on non-probate assets.
          Change passwords on all online accounts and notify them in writing that the former spouse is not permitted excess to records.
4)  Change your beneficiary under your own life insurance, whether whole life insurance or term insurance. Again, don’t just rely on language in a divorce decree to make sure your wishes are followed. If the ex-spouse is required to obtain life insurance to pay to you or your children, you want to see proof of the insurance in writing with beneficiary designation.
5)  Contact your employer's human resources and change the beneficiary on pension, stock options, life insurance,  and other employee benefits. Note that if you are not yet divorced, your spouse may have to sign a written waiver permitting you to change beneficiaries.
6)  Keep your personal papers at a location where an ex-spouse or the child's parent can't steal or destroy them. 
7)  If you have minor children, nominate someone under a Will to serve as guardian to the children. Although the surviving parent obviously has first right of custody of children, they may not even want custody. You don’t want your ex in-laws to have custody of your children or access to the children’s money. A new Will specifically shows a Surrogate and Probate Judge you’re your wishes are. If no Will, then a judge can only guess.
         Also set up a Trust in the Will so children and grandchildren receive funds when they are 21, 25 and 30. Preserve money for college and necessary expenses, not a windfall to buy an expensive car when they turn 18. Also don’t make the minor children beneficiary of big life insurance policies, because they automatically receive when they turn 18. Instead, you can make your estate the beneficiary of life insurance and other accounts. How many 18 year old kids would spend money wisely? Seek assistance of estate planning attorney, don’t try to do everything yourself.
         A trust also protects the beneficiary if there is a lawsuit and judgment against them.
8)  Make sure the trustee for any funds designated for your children is the "right" trustee. The former in laws may no longer be the best choice.
9) Re-title real estate, cars and other assets in joint names. Usually a new Deed will have to be prepared. If there is a mortgage, either a refinance or consent of mortgage company to remove your name from the mortgage. [Good luck with that.]
10)  In New Jersey, if you are still married and living with a spouse, under certain instances the surviving spouse has a right to "elect against the Will".      The disinherited spouse may try to elect against the Will and try to obtain one  third of the estate. Your attorney can explain how you can protect yourself and your children.     

11) Have a new Living Will / Advance Directive for health care/ medical proxy prepared to remove the ex and select a family member you trust with last medical wishes. The Living Will should contain new HIPPA language to advise doctors and hospital who should have access to medical information. You don’t want an estranged person to be able to make Medical decisions or “Pull the plug”. A divorce decree does not remove the ex-spouse on Medical Power of Attorney/ Living Will. They should have a new Living Will prepared.

Separated persons
          Some clients are not aware they can have a new Will and other estate planning documents prepared prior to a formal divorce decree. To the contrary, our office drafts Will for individuals in marital difficulty who want to protect their assets and children in the event of an unexpected, sudden death.  A personal can have a new Will and estate planning documents without telling their spouse.
          If spouses are living together, the surviving spouse in many states can Elect against the Will and obtain 1/3 of the augmented estate. See Uniform Probate Code 2-201. A married person can also confidentially revoke a Power of Attorney, Living Will, Trust etc. However, the original attorney cannot prepare new documents if the attorney also prepared documents for the other spouse. The original attorney in some states may be required to notify the other spouse. Therefore, a new, independent attorney is suggested whose only loyalty is to you.
          It is important to prepare new documents if separation has started or is inevitable since someone does not want their some of be ex to make financial and medical decisions. However, typically a spouse cannot be removed as a beneficiary under pensions, etc without that spouse’s written consent.
          You can select a funeral agent so your estranged spouse does not handle funeral arrangements.
          Also speak with your divorce attorney to inquire if you can take out 50%  of assets in a joint account and deposit in a new account payable death to adult children, not the estranged spouse.
          If you own a small business, prepare a contingency plan if you become disabled for someone to run your business.

          Second marriage
         If you decide to get remarried, have your attorney prepare a prenuptial agreement, so your children can inherit your assets.  You want your children, not new spouse, to receive your assets if you pass away. In many states, persons put their assets into Trusts for the benefit of a child. However, if the trust is revocable, Medicaid will include the trust assets as available money. In blended families, irrevocable trusts are useful because a Will can be revocable by a competent person without telling their spouse.

          If You Have No Will after someone divorces:                               
          If you leave no Will or your Will is declared invalid because it was improperly prepared or is not admissible to probate:

1. People you dislike or people who dislike and ignore you may get some of your assets or control assets. If you are not divorced and die without a Will, under the uniform probate code your spouse will receive 100%  of your estate if all the children are from the same relationship. State law determines who gets assets, not you.
2. If you have minor children, the County Surrogate will hold the child’s money until age 18 and it is difficult and time consuming to petition the Surrogate to release funds for payment of tuition, medical bills, clothing etc.
3. Additional expenses will be incurred and extra work will be required to qualify an administrator-Surety Bond, additional costs and legal fees
4. You Lose the opportunity to work with your attorney to try to reduce Estate Tax, State inheritance taxes and Federal estate taxes
5. A Judge determines who gets custody of minor children. A greedy brother or crazy mother in law could ask the court for custody. The parent of your children may try to control the assets of your children and not properly spend the money
6. It probably will cause fights and lawsuits within your family
        
 ESTATE PLANNING TO PROTECT CHILDREN
        There may come a time when an unmarried parent is unable, due to physical or mental incapacity, to take care of their minor children. If a parent dies, the minor children will need a guardian. In these circumstances, those caring for the children, as well as the courts will need direction. By writing and executing a Will, which includes instructions on guardianship one may select someone, either individually or jointly, with the legal authority to act for minor children and assume control over the assets of the children. Estate planning, which includes the execution of a Will, is just as important for persons with minor children as they are for senior citizens.

Guardians
     Most individuals appoint the parent to act as Guardian of the person and property of their minor children. It is suggested that your Will include a clause which provides that in the event the other parent predeceases you, or is unsuitable or ceases to act as Guardian of the person and property of your minor children, you appoint a trusted family member or close friend to act as successor Guardian of the person and property of your minor children.
          Sometimes the divorce is amicable and the person may still wish to have their ex –spouse be executor of their Will or Trustee of a trust for children. New estate planning documents should still be signed after the divorce to confirm they want to ex to remain involved in a potential estate.

Trustee for funds
     Select a trusted person, your close relative or friends, who will invest and hold your children's money. If divorced or unmarried, most people do not select the other parent. In your Will and Trust you can instruct the Trustee to apply amounts of income and principal as they, in their sole discretion, deem proper for the health, maintenance, education, welfare, or support of your children or other minors. Direct that the trustee shall accumulate any income not needed for the above purposes, paying and transferring the portion held in trust to the beneficiary upon his or her attaining the age of majority or whichever age you select. 

     Conclusion

        While the preceding article contains possible items to be discussed with your family, attorney  and executor, the article is by no means exhaustive.  A number of these items may not be applicable in your situation, and probably there are many others that are applicable.  The essential element is to spend some time now considering what you should tell those most closely associated with you to facilitate their handling of your affairs upon your death.