email: stuart at wordcraft.net
My law firm was established in 1935 and I have been practicing law in Bergen County since 1976. I specialize in Law involving written words - Wills, Estate Planning, Trusts, Real Estate purchases and sales, Regular & Reverse Mortgages, Landlord-Tenant Law, Business Agreements & Contract Review.
I continue the Bergen County law practice begun by my father, Jacob Schneider (1910-1993), and my uncle, Judge C. Conrad Schneider (1908-1984). I represent a diverse clientele which includes businesses, builders, formerly the township of Teaneck Rent Board, international governments, homeowners and local families.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and answers regarding Wills, Trusts, and Real Estate. These will prepare you for actually sitting down with me to discuss your situation.
From Route 4 (Paramus): Take Route 4 East (towards New York City). After Fuddruckers Restaurant (in Paramus) stay right. Follow sign "Hackensack, River Edge, Oradell Stay Right". Continue on to sign "Johnson Ave., Hackensack" and go to the right two blocks to a blinking light. Turn left (one short block) to Kinderkamack Road. Turn left onto Kinderkamack Road. Go (north) 2.0 miles and our building is on the right, just at the traffic light.
From New York City: Cross the George Washington Bridge and look for Route 4 (black 4 in a white circle). Take Route 4 West to the Kinderkamack Road exit River Edge. Go north on Kinderkamack Road 1.8 miles and our building is on the right, just at the traffic light.
From NJ Turnpike - points South: Go to last exit on theTurnpike. Follow signs to the local portion of Route 80 East (towards New York City). Get off at the Fort Lee Road - Teaneck exit and go a few blocks to Teaneck Road (traffic light). Follow Teaneck Road to Route 4. Take Route 4 West to the Kinderkamack Road exit River Edge. Go north on Kinderkamack Road 1.8 miles and our building is on the right, just at the traffic light.
From Garden State Parkway: Take Exit 161 (Route 4 East). Follow instructions above from Route 4.
From Route 80: Go East (stay on right side) until you can get on the Route 80 local lanes. Get off the "Fort Lee Road - Teaneck exit and go a few blocks to Teaneck Road (traffic light). Follow Teaneck Road to Route 4. Take Route 4 West to the Kinderkamack Road exit River Edge. Go north on Kinderkamack Road 1.8 miles and our building is on the right, just at the traffic light.
From New York State: Call me for instructions.
Q. Do I need a Will? I just have a (wife, kids, parents, brother, sister, dog, etc.).
A. Yes, you need a Will. If you don't have a Will, the State of New Jersey will decide where your assets go. While this is not terrible, it is actually more expensive than dying with a Will. Your heirs may have to hire a lawyer to file papers with the Surrogate and after a hearing, someone will have to post a bond to handle (Administer) your estate and you will, in effect, pay this money for a lawyer and bonding company. In short, it is cheaper to have a Will. By the way, you can always change a Will anytime you want. For small changes, such as changing the name of an Executor, I prepare a Codicil or addition to the Will. For larger changes, I may suggest that the entire Will be redrawn.
Q. What is the difference between a Will and a Living Will?
A. A Will appoints someone (the Executor or Personal Representative) to handle your estate when you die. It does not "speak" until you die. It tells the Executor what to do with your assets, house, and anything else that is in your name alone. It does not cover things that you own with others such as: Joint Bank Accounts with a right of survivorship, a house in your name and your spouse's name (survivor takes all), IRAs with beneficiaries, and Insurance policies with beneficiaries. A Living Will is more properly called a "Health Care Directive". It only is active when you are alive. The Living Will tells your doctors what to do if you are hooked up to machines and will never recover. The problem is not hooking someone up. It is designed to answer the question, "Here is what I want you to do if I am ever in a coma or vegetative state and are expected to die in a few (days, weeks, etc.). A Living Will costs $125.00 for one person or $200.00 for two done at the same time.
Q. What else should I consider when I make a Will?
A. These days, I suggest that everyone should have a Living Will and sometimes a Durable Power Of Attorney. Why do I need a Living Will? The problem comes about when the doctor says that the person on the machine will never recover. Most people want their loved one disconnected from the machine. Without a Living Will, your family will have to go to Court to get you disconnected. With a Living Will, you choose, in advance, what you want to happen. A Durable Power Of Attorney allows you to pick someone to handle your affairs and pay your bills if you are disabled.
Q. How much does a Will cost?
A. A Will costs from $350 for a simple Will or $600 for a husband & wife's simple Wills signed in my office. (My "simple Wills" generally include a trust for children under age of 21. This includes up to a half hour conference and about a half hour to sign the Wills. Above and beyond that there is an hourly rate for estate planning.) Codicils cost about $125.00. Complex estate plans may call for a more complex Will and it will cost more. You can save time by making a written list of your heirs, the name of a person to act as Executor, perhaps a backup Executor if the first can not do the job, Trustees, Guardians for minor children and the correct spelling of everyones' name and their addresses. You should also know what you own, its approximate value and how you own it. For example, in New Jersey, most husbands and wives own their home as "Tenants by the Entirety", similar to joint tenancy. Occasionally property is owned as "Tenants in Common". They are two very different things. Take a look at the deed or bring it with you.
Q. I made a Will when the children were small. Do I need to make a new one?
A. I suggest that Wills be reviewed every 3 years. Your Executor may have moved away or died, your kids may be exhibiting to you how little they understand money, or you may have had another child. For my clients, Will review costs nothing.
Q. What is Probate and is it expensive?
A. Probate is filing a deceased person's Will with the County Surrogate and having an Executor appointed. New Jersey just changed a portion of its law regarding estates. There is a convoluted calculation where the person who passes away is deemed to have died when the Federal Estate Tax deduction was $675,000. If the estate is larger than that amount, then a Federal tax is calculated as if the person died on December 31, 2001 and the New Jersey tax is calculated on that amount. Otherwise, the Probate process is generally simple, unlike New York or Florida. Probating a husband or wife's Will for an estate under $675,000 and filing the appropriate papers usually runs about $1,200 plus about $145 for the filing fees. In New Jersey, lawyers must charge an hourly rate rather than a percentage of the estate. I have represented the country of Italy in Estate matters in Northern New Jersey for over 25 years. I am very familiar with the Court and Probate system..
Q. What is Estate Planning?
A. Simply, it is figuring out what will accomplish your goals and result in the lowest taxes and problems for your Executor and heirs. For some families, it is pretty simple and straight forward. If you have minor children, it is a bit more complicated. Suppose your kids can not handle a large sum of money that they will receive on your death; money that you hope will last them a long time. Maybe a trust needs to be set up. This can be set up in the Will or as a separate Trust document. If you have a family owned business, it can get more complicated.
Q. How much tax do I have to pay?
A. In New Jersey there is no tax between husband and wife and no inheritance tax from a parent to a child, although there may be an estate tax on the estate. New Jersey takes their cut from the recipient's share when Uncle Sam taxes the estate (see the exception above under What is Probate?). Federal tax law also does not tax transfers between husband and wife. Uncle Sam also provided an exemption of $3.5 million in 2009, repealed entirely in 2010 and then to $5.0 million in 2011 & 2012, then it is anybody's guess where it is going.
Suggestion: Both spouses should own assets individually. This allows both to take advantage of the maximum exemptions.
Q. I heard that I can avoid paying taxes by putting my assets in a Trust. Is this true?
A. Generally, No. The government has figured out most of the ways that people try to "beat" paying taxes and has made it expensive and complicated to try to avoid paying death taxes. With estates greater than a few million dollars, it may pay to establish trusts.
Q. My Mom or Dad is old and infirm, should I have them transfer the house to me?
A. This is a complicated question. If you inherit the house, you get it at the full market value on the date of death. There may be no Estate Tax due. If you transfer the house for less than its full market value, you probably get the house at the owner's original cost. ("But Dad only paid $12,000 for it 40 years ago.") If you then sell it, Income Tax is due on the profit. Usually the family situation and the Income Tax vs. Estate Tax needs to be taken into consideration before I go ahead with a simple transfer out of the elder parent's name.
Q. My friends have a (revocable) living trust and told me I need a living trust. Is this true?
A. If you live or own property in New York state or Florida, having a living trust may save you some money, time, and legal expense for your estate. In New Jersey, generally you do not need a living trust unless you want to set up a living trust for a handicapped child or elderly parent.
There are other trusts that we use in New Jersey such as a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT), Grantor Retained Income Trust (GRIT), Real Property Trust, Life Insurance Trust, Educational Trust, and Charitable Annuity or Income Trusts. Most are irrevocable. That means that once you put the money in, you can't take it back out. There are "Living Trusts" where you retain control during your lifetime and then the Trust instructions take over on your death. These are more concerned with control rather than tax savings. Trust law is constantly changing and what works well for one person does not work for another. This is where estate planning comes in. I work with accountants, financial planners, stock brokers and insurance companies.
Q. What is a Trust?
A. A Trust is where property is put into a separate entity. That entity called a trust. It is governed by the Trust Document and administered by a Trustee. Trustees can be one or more people or a bank or trust company. The trust holds money, property or assets and collects any income and either pays it to a person, group of people, or charity or holds on to it until some event happens (someone dies, 10 years pass, etc.).
Real Estate Transactions:
Q. How much does it cost to buy or sell a house?
A. Generally it costs about $1,500 to buy a house without a mortgage or from $2,000 if you need a mortgage and $1,200 to sell a house or condominium costing $500,000 or less. This does not include the costs, such as title insurance, filing fees, FedEx, canceling mortgages, recording mortgages, and lender or mortgage charges. We have represented many hundreds of buyers and sellers and will help negotiate your contract, offer advice on banks and mortgage companies to avoid, work with real estate brokers, house inspectors, and help you through the entire process. Generally, you will deal directly with the mortgage company or bank for your financing.
Q. What is a Reverse Mortgage and do you handle these?
A. Reverse Mortgages are available to seniors over age 62. Instead of homeowner making payments to a bank to pay off the mortgage, the bank pays the homeowner who has a significant amount of equity built up in their home, a lump sum of money or monthly payments or a combination of the two, and puts a lien on the property that must be paid off at death, sale, or some other event.
Q. How much does it cost to refinance a mortgage?
A. Refinancing a mortgage takes just as much work as a purchase and the cost is the same.
Q. I want to buy business or investment property. Do you handle that?
A. Yes, besides the regular process of closing a deal, I appear before municipal planning boards and boards of adjustment. I was the Rent Board Attorney in Teaneck from 1978 to 2002, I have also been the attorney for the Construction Board of Appeals and the Historical Commission. I have a good understanding of how municipal boards function and approaches that work and those that don't work.
Stuart L. Schneider
820 Kinderkamack Road
River Edge, New Jersey 07661
Tel. 201-599-4250, Fax 201-599-4251
email: stuart at wordcraft.net