Pets - More Than Companions to Seniors

In an odd bit of news re elder care, a cat that offers comfort to nursing home patients in their final hours. While it is a touching story, it highlights for me how many seniors die alone, and how many have pets that are their constant companions in later life that will need continuing care and provisions when their owner passes away.

Cat plays furry grim reaper at nursing home: "PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours." Click here for full article.
Many seniors are truly worried about what will happen to their feline and canine and other companions if they are no longer able to take care of them. A client may have adult children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren who are settled and secure, but when they come to see me, they have stress about providing for the loved one in their life who can't provide for themselves. A couple of thoughts:

Put practicality first. Make sure people know you have a pet, and arrange for a family member or friend to agree to be responsible for "emergency care" if you fall ill. This person needs to be able to get to the pet (has keys to the house) and be aware of the pets needs.

Arrange for long term care for your pet in your Will. This can take a variety of forms, such as a direction as to who gets the pets, matched with a monetary bequest or not, or a pet trust, or making arrangements with a company that provides care for pets for the balanace of their lives when their owners have died.

Who can Challenge the amount of NJ Estate Tax Levied?

Let's say that your father created a trust for the benefit of his second wife (not your mother) and his Will provided that his wife would receive all the income from the trust during her lifetime, and whatever was left over upon her death would pass to you. This is the common set up with a Qualified Terminal Interest Property (“QTIP”) Trust.  Let's also say a New Jersey estate tax is being generating by your father's estate. Do you have a right to challenge the New Jersey estate tax by virtue of being the beneficiary of the QTIP trust after your step-mother's death?

A recent New Jersey Tax Court case says "Yes". In Joanne LaBarbera v. Director, Division of Taxation Judge DeAlmeida, J.T.C. held on behalf of the Tax Court that the Plaintiff, the residuary beneficiary of a QTIP Trust, has standing to challenge an assessment of estate tax against the estate of the initial beneficiary of the trust. 


Haven't Paid NJ Taxes? Now Might Be the Time

Courtesy of JH Cohn:

New Jersey Enacts Tax Amnesty Program

"New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has signed a bill creating a 45-day New Jersey state tax amnesty period that will end no later than June 15, 2009. Presumably the program will begin on or about May 1, allowing the New Jersey Division of Taxation some time after the April 15 filing deadline to gear up for the program.

Under the program, taxpayers who pay outstanding state tax liabilities for tax returns due on or after January 1, 2002 and prior to February 1, 2009, plus one-half of interest owed as of May 1, 2009, will not have to pay the other half of the interest owed, nor will they be liable for collections costs or civil or criminal penalties. Taxpayers under criminal investigation for a state tax matter are ineligible for the program. On the other hand, taxpayers involved with civil tax audits are eligible.

Similar to the most recent New Jersey tax amnesty program conducted in 2002, a five percent "amnesty eligible" penalty will be imposed after the amnesty period concludes on any additional taxes found due by a taxpayer that were not paid during the amnesty period for a tax period falling under the amnesty program."

Do your heirs a big favor: Choose IRA (and other) beneficiaries

Category: Estate Planning

While I have blogged on this idea before (Retirement Accounts and Beneficiary Designations - Myths and Misconceptions ), the intro to this article Do your heirs a big favor: Choose IRA beneficiaries reminds me of what we commonly see at the death of the second spouse - the Will had provided for contingencies, so no new estate planning was done. Unfortunately, the second spouse had no idea who was named as a contingent beneficiary on insurance, retirement plans, etc., and sometimes those dollars go to unintended beneficiaries (whether they be children or Uncle Sam).

"After the recent death of his mother, James B. from Santa Barbara had a sit-down talk with his father, covering family finances.
'My father doesn't need to change anything, he's set up for life,' James said in an e-mail, 'but not changing anything means he wants to leave everything exactly as he had it with Mom. He says that his will sorts everything out, but I'm afraid we're missing something here.'
What James' father is missing is a named beneficiary on his individual retirement account; his wife was the beneficiary, but her death and the absence of a contingent beneficiary means the money will go the estate. The will eventually will sort things out, but the error will turn a lifetime of savvy investing into a Stupid Investment of the Week."

Why is not looking at your IRA beneficiaries not wise? Because often the default beneficiary is the estate. From and IRA perspective, and estate is not a favored beneficiary. Human beings as beneficiaries have the right to stretch-out their inherited IRA's over a period of time - thus deferring any income tax on the dollars in the IRA. Estates as beneficiaries must have the entire IRA distributed within 5 years, thus triggering payment of all the income tax on the dollars.

Lets get Banks Lending - SBA Loan Guarantee Amount to 90%

As reported by NJBIZ, in an effort to get banks lending again:

Starting today, the U.S. Small Business Administration is raising to 90 percent the federal guarantee on most SBA loans and temporarily suspending a fee that is charged to banks, but passed along to borrowers.

The 90 percent guarantee will be on loans up to $1.5 million. The portion of the loan above $1.5 million, up to the maximum SBA loan of $1 million, will be subject to a lower guarantee amount.

Estate Planning - Men v. Women (these are the jokes)

Category: Miscellaneous Musings

A totally non-serious estate planning tale, but good for a chuckle....

Estate Planning

Dan was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business. When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a wife with which to share his fortune.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away.

"I may look like just an ordinary man," he said to her, "but in just a few years, my father will die, and I'll inherit 20 million dollars."

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card. Three days later, she became his stepmother.

Women are so much better at estate planning than men.