The NPD Spring/Summer 2014 Newsletter is Here!

THREE BASIC ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS A MUST
A Will, a Power of Attorney and a Living Will with a Medical Power of Attorney are three basic documents that everyone should take the time to consider and obtain. Having these vital documents in place provides peace of mind as well as protection for both the individual and his or her family. Unfortunately, many people put off considering these documents until they get older or sick. Sometimes, it is too late. The best time to discuss this topic with a lawyer and have these documents prepared is when one is in good health and not under any pending pressure (e.g. upcoming medical procedure or long distant trip).
As our population ages and our life expectancy increases, the need for legal documents that allow others to assist and care for us also increases. That is the function of both a Power of Attorney and a Living Will.  Generally, a Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes one person to act for another in matters such as conducting an ongoing business, paying bills and performing basic banking tasks.  A Living Will, together with a Medical Power of Attorney, allows one to make health care decisions for himself or herself when he or she is no longer able to participate in his or her own healthcare, particularly end of life decisions. A Will expresses one’s wishes as to how his or her property and assets are to be disposed of after death. Not having a Will means that one’s assets will pass to individuals as determined under state law, which may not be necessarily the same as one’s wishes. Having all of the above taken care of in three relatively inexpensive basic documents provides comfort, serenity and peace of mind for one’s entire family. 

For all of your estate planning needs, please contact Anthony M. Bongiovanni, Esquire.

NEW ESTATE TAX RULES & THE IMPACT ON YOUR ESTATE PLANNING

The federal estate tax has been in flux and attracting significant attention over the past decade.  After a one-year disappearance in 2010, the federal estate tax returned in 2011 due to a 2-year deal between the President and Congress that expired on December 31, 2012 allowing an exemption of $5 million, indexed to inflation, with a 35 percent tax rate on any amount over that.  The taxes and exemptions for gifts made during someone’s lifetime to children and grandchildren were also raised to the same level.

As of the beginning of 2014, the federal estate and gift tax exemptions are currently set at $5,340,000 (up from $5,250,000 for gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2013), indexed for inflation, and the tax rate above that exemption is 40 percent. With indexing, the exemption will rise at a rate that means most Americans will continue to avoid paying any federal estate tax.

However, in New Jersey, state estate taxes must be paid for any estate valued at $675,000 and above, which is imposed at graduated rates with a maximum tax rate of 16%.  New Jersey residents also pay a transfer inheritance tax, also imposed at graduated rates varying between 11% and 16% on property having a total value of $500 or more which passes from a decedent to certain beneficiaries. Generally, an inheritance tax return must be filed and the tax paid on the transfer of real or personal property within 8 months after the death of a decedent.  Any estate tax owed in NJ is reduced by the inheritance tax paid.

However, property passing to a decedent's surviving spouse, civil union partner, domestic partner, parents, grandparents, children, stepchildren or grandchildren is entirely exempt from the state inheritance tax.

New Jersey Assembly Bill A2604, currently pending in the State Legislature, would increase the applicable exclusion amount for the state estate tax from $675,000 to $1 million.

Please contact Michael Peacock or Anthony Bongiovanni of our office for all of your estate planning questions and needs.

NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT GRANTS COAH MORE TIME TO ADOPT THIRD-ROUND REGULATIONS

On March 14, 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court released an Order providing the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) with additional time to promulgate its Third Round regulations.  The Court established the following timeline for COAH to adopt the regulations:
• By May 1st, COAH must propose regulations, which will be published in the June 2nd edition of the New Jersey Register;
• By August 1st, the public may submit comments to COAH regarding the proposed regulations; and
• By October 22nd, COAH must adopt the regulations, which will be published in the November 17th edition of the New Jersey Register.
If COAH fails to adopt regulations by November 17th, the Court made clear in its Order that it will entertain motions seeking relief in aid of litigant’s rights.  The Court suggested that among the relief it would consider is lifting the protection afforded to municipalities by the Fair Housing Act and permit builder’s remedy lawsuits against municipalities. The Court retained jurisdiction over any future applications to enforce its judgment.
On April 3rd, COAH met the Court’s first deadline by proposing new regulations.  We are currently reviewing the proposed rules to ensure compliance with the Court’s earlier decision. 

Please feel free to contact Tracy A. Siebold, Esq., if you have any questions.

NO PENALTIES FOR OPRA VIOLATION UNLESS REQUEST WAS WRITTEN
In Bozzi v. City of Atlantic City, et al., Plaintiff sued the City alleging that it violated the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  Although the case dealt with other issues, it is important because the Appellate Division held that under OPRA, only a person who requests public records in writing is entitled to seek penalties.  Based upon this holding, a governmental entity faces no penalties, such as attorneys’ fees and costs, if they ignore an oral request.  Since the penalties of OPRA encourage governmental entities to follow the law, all requests for records should be made in writing if you want to make sure you obtain the records you are seeking. 

Please contact Kimberly A. Procopio of our office regarding any questions regarding the Open Public Records Act.

ZERO TOLERANCE POLICIES MUST APPLY TO ALL EMPLOYEES
In Mitchell v. City of Pittsburgh, a 61 year old African-American man who had worked in the EMS division for 32 years and had been a crew chief for 14 years was terminated for sexual harassment.  The Federal Court refused to dismiss his lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and permitted him to proceed to trial against his employer.  The Court found that other employees outside the protected class who committed other kinds of serious misconduct were not terminated.   The lesson here for employers is that if there is a zero tolerance policy, it must be enforced with zero tolerance or else they leave themselves open to these types of expensive and time-consuming claims. 

For more information on this or any employment related matter, please contact Kimberly A. Procopio of our office.

ATTORNEY TRACY A. SIEBOLD HAS JOINED NEHMAD PERILLO & DAVIS

Tracy concentrates her practice on all facets of real estate development, with a primary focus on zoning, land use, and affordable housing compliance.  She has represented Fortune 500 companies, national and regional commercial and residential developers, trade organizations, and landowners throughout New Jersey in connection with real estate transactions, zoning and land use applications and litigation, and affordable housing compliance and litigation.

Prior to her legal career, Tracy served in the United States Air Force and United States Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of Major.

The law firm of Nehmad Perillo & Davis handles some of the region’s most significant real estate, land use and general litigation matters for its clients, which include local and regional developers and a number of Fortune 500 companies. Additional practice areas of the firm include transactions, financing, banking, corporate planning, and business and personal tax matters.