On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed 93 bills just before the 2014/2015 legislative session deadline ended. Bills that were not signed by noon on January 19th would have expired and would have needed to be reintroduced in the new legislative session. Nevertheless, among the bills signed are several affecting the estate planning community.
First, as noted in other posts, the Uniform Trust Code was finally signed into law. It takes effect 180 days following enactment which is January 17, 2016.
Another bill that was executed deals with administration of small estates. Under N.J.S.A. 3B:10-3 and 3B:10-4 there are circumstances when a “small” intestate estate can be “administered” without the necessity of paying probate filing fees through the surrogate’s office. Under the prior law, the assets of an intestate estate (an estate where no Will was in place) could be “administered” by a surviving spouse where the value of the assets was less than $20,000 for other intestate beneficiaries (non-spousal) the limit was $10,000 to total. New Jersey Senate Bill 2251 which was enacted into law increased this threshold to $50,000 for a surviving spouse and to $20,000 for other heirs. In addition, the new law applies not only to a surviving spouse, but also it treats a “partner” in a civil union in the same fashion as a spouse. Of course, domestic partnerships and civil unions will continue to be recognized in New Jersey, notwithstanding Supreme Court allowance of same sex marriages.
Another bill of interest deals with the filing dates for estate and inheritance tax returns. New Jersey Inheritance tax returns are due eight months after the date of a decedent’s passing. By contrast, the New Jersey Estate Tax Return, which is now more relevant since 2002, has been due nine months after death, consistent with the filing requirements for the federal estate tax filing obligations. It has been an ongoing effort of the Bar and CPA Society to try to coordinate the two filing dates to 9 months in an effort to make the estate administration process more efficient. Unfortunately, while this bill passed the House and Senate, it was vetoed by the Governor. Apparently, it results in one month deferral of revenue which was considered too costly. This issue will remain a significant pet peeve for estate attorneys!
Glenn A. Henkel is a shareholder in the firm and earned his J.D. degree at Rutgers University School of Law, where he graduated with honors and was awarded the Prentice Hall Award for outstanding performance in the area of taxation. He earned his LL.M. in Taxation at New York University. Mr. Henkel’s particular areas of expertise include complex estate planning, tax-exempt organizations and Probate, Trust and Estate Law.