NJ Estate Tax Law- a New Era for 2017

Generally speaking, a New Jersey resident who passed away prior to December 31, 2016 is subject to NJ estate tax if their estate exceeds $675,000.

As of January 1, 2017 the threshold for NJ estate tax goes up to $2M for those estates where the decedent passed away in 2017. Effective January 1, 2018 the NJ estate tax will be eliminated in its entirety.

While this does not eliminate NJ’s Transfer Inheritance Tax requirement or federal estate tax obligations this change in the law does signal welcome relief for those individuals with modest estates ($5.45M or less) who want to plan for their families future.

Like all things important please consult your accountant, certified financial planner and attorney for the proper direction.

Limited Liability Companies- Important Changes

On March 1st 2014 the New Jersey Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act was enacted. RULLCA became an important new guidepost for NJ LLCs.

Many of the rules change or clarify issues of duty, voting, resignation & information access by members of the LLC. One of the most important changes is for non-single memeber LLCs and the necessity for a viable shareholder’s agreement.

In the past it was common for LLCs with 2 or more members to form an LLC, in name only, without giving proper consideration to the rights and responsibilities of the members themselves. Often one of the members was not even recognized as a managing member. This was true despite good advice to the contrary from counsel.

Since the adoption of RULLCA in NJ it is recommended, in the strongest possible terms, that any LLC that is not a single member LLC, formally adopt a shareholder’s agreement that specifies respective member interests, investments, duties, other obligations & membership rights. RULLCA seems to default to certain findings absent a specifically prepared shareholders agreement.

Commercial Litigation: On Time & On Budget

As a business owner it is inevitable.  At some point in your corporate existence you will either be sued or need to sue.  Sometimes there are simply no other ways to resolve contractual disagreements.  Make sure that when this unfortuante occurance arises you educate yourself fully as to your rights and responsibilites.

First, sit with trusted counsel and review the agreements that the parties have signed.  This will be a great opportunity to understand  the expectations that the parties had for each other.  You will learn what your rights are and what remedies are available to you.  This is also the chance to insure that you have performed adequately under the contract.

Second, educate yourself as to what the parties contend that each has done wrong.  This will help you focus clearly on what is really at stake between the parties.

Third, find out what your alternatives are.  Trial is not always the best answer.  It may be worth while to pursue binding arbitration, non-binding mediation or even a multi-party negotiation with counsel.  These are excellent opportunites to stream line the disputes.  The process is cheaper, evidence and court rules are more liberally construed and the parties have more control over the process.

Lastly, make sure your counsel knows what’s really important to your business…bringing the litigation to a proper conclusion “on time” and “on budget”.  Establish with your attorney a meaningful measurement of proper time constraints to resolve the dispute and create a budget that meets your expectations.  For some reason lawyers are reluctat to commit themselves to the anticipated costs and fees that will be incurred at each stage of the process.  After 25 years of practicing law I can predict costs and fess on almost every case I’m involved with.  Your attorney should also.  Make sure that your counsel knows what’s important to your business and to you.

INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT? 5 Do’s & Dont’s

Accidents causing serious injuries happen everday.  The proper way to respond can make the difference between those  lives that are restored and those that aren’t.  This is an imortant list of 5 things to do & not do regardless of whether the accident involves a car, motorcycle, pedestrian, unsafe workplace, defective product or a medical mistake.

1.  If you are hurt get proper medical attention IMMEDIATELY.  When you go to a hospital emergency room or medi-merge tell them exactly HOW you were injured and WHAT body parts are causing you pain.  Thereafter follow the instructions given.  (Waiting too long, failing to document how the accident happened or giving incomplete medical information is very damaging to your health & ability to financially recover).

2. Document the happening of the accident properly.  Take the time to call the police and insist upon a POLICE REPORT in a motor vehicle, motorcycle, premises or pedestrian accident.  Fill out a report with an employer, called a FIRST REPORT, as to how you were injured on the job or using workplace tools.  Make sure the information you give is complete and accurate.  Don’t argue with the others involved.  Explain yourself cleraly & accurately to those that are taking the report.  Make sure witnesses are reflected by name, address and phone number. After the report is issued take the time to read it for mistakes and correct them.  (A failure to do these things means that the happening of the accident is now memorialized innacurately.  This will cost you time & money down the road).

3. Understand who has insurance and how the layers of coverage work.  There are varuious types of insurance coverage: automobile insurance, health insurance, workers compensation insurance, med-pay coverage, union coverage, state &/or private disabilty insurance, Medicare, Medicaid &  charity care.  Each of these insurances has different layers, benefits and responsibilites.  The use of some is mandatory while the use of others is prohibited.  Some are wise to use and other unwise.  (Speak to a lawyer versed in personal injury law to guide you in this regard.  Even the doctors themselves don’t know all the ins and outs.)

4. Follow the doctors directives FULLY.  If you don’t quit on them they won’t quit on you.  Don’t stop treating until they discharge you from their care, refer you to someone else or you legitimately feel fully recoverd.  If you’re not feeling better after some time…speak up.  Perhaps a new approach or different doctor or type of doctor is needed.  It is not a lawyer’s job to be your doctor, but your attorney can and should be a good source of advice on the proper path of medical treatment you are receiving. (A failure to complete treatment or follow a doctor’s advice will be held against you should you need to pursue a case for your injuries.)

5.  When  all is said & done if you are not permanently injured, but have made a full and complete recovery…GREAT!  You got good treatment and can move on with your life.  For those that are not so lucky, don’t feel embarrassed by the need to purse a claim.  A formal claim by a good personal injury lawyer may be the only way to get your life resotred. All good personal inury lawyers will always agree to meet you without fee.)

PERSONAL INJURIES: But I’m not the TYPE to sue…

In the 25 years that I have practiced law I have listened to the stories of hundreds of clients.  For most I feel a sense of empathy, and sometimes even sympathy,  for what they have been through prior to meeting me.  Often, the pain of their injuries will go on long after my case with them ends.  For some unknown reason, however, the truly seriously injured always feel the need to tell me that “they are NOT the type of person that sues other people.”  I often ask, in reply, “Who is that person?  What are they like?  What makes them WANT TO SUE anyone?”

The simple fact is that no one WANTS to sue anyone.  I can’t imagine anyone that would derive joy or benefit out of the idea of suing another without proper cause.  Imagine the time commitment, out of pocket costs and inconvenience, just to name a few of the reasons why someone wouldn’t.  Also, believe it or not, good lawyers who are honest and hard-working  are usually pretty good at screening cases.  That means knowing which ones to take and which ones to turn away.  The best lawyers respectfully decline to take as many cases as they accept.  Why?  There are 3 reasons.

First, I have to be certain that my client’s circumstances are the “legal fault of another”.  In my business we call this LIABILITY.  The person(s), company or entity that I’m going to sue, on behalf of my client, has to be RESPONSIBLE for the harm they caused.

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Social Media & Personal Injury Lawsuits…Be Very Careful What You Post!

Imagine this…You’re  badly hurt in a car accident, workplace accident or you suffer personal injuries at an unprotected construction site.  You lose time, and more importantly pay, from your work.  The bills are mounting and you and your young family are hurting as you try to get by.  You’re doing everything the doctors ask, but you’re slow to recover.

Your lawyer is working hard to convince the insurance company of the other parties fault.  Scene investigation photos are enlarged for use at trial.  Countless dollars have been expended for medical records which doctors carefully review for the background testimony that they will give at trial.  Countless hours are spent by legal teams analyzing insurance policies in the hope of a proper and just recovery.  Experts are preparing for the day they will testify.  As the time draws near  you hope for a good settlement and, if not, a successful trial.  You think you see the light at the end of the tunnel…or is it a train coming in the opposite direction!

Beware of SOCIAL MEDIA and what you have posted on the various sites you belong to.  Whether it is Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the other sites, remember this…if its posted it is discoverable by anyone at anytime.  It is absolutely something that the defense attorney and their insurance company are checking out in your case.  They want to see what you are saying to your family and friends so that they can compare it to what you’ve said about yourself in your case.  Improper posts may very well be used against you.

Did you testify at a depostion that you can’t dance or wear high heels?  How about those wedding pictures that you posted from your sister’s wedding this past summer!  Do you maintain that your personal injuries are so permanent that you can’t travel?  How about the stories you posted from your vacation in Barbados!  Confined to a bed or to home for a period of time?  Okay, so what do those pictures of you and your friends at the Super Bowl say as you are whooping it up and chugging beer with some girls that you just met on Bourbon Street?

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MUNICIPAL COURTS: It’s More Than Just a Speeding Ticket

For most people exposure to New Jersey’s municipal courts is the first, and sometimes the only, experience with our legal system.  Your understanding and navigation of the process is crtical to how you will view your experience there.

Some states have the misdemanor (less serious) and felony (more serious) system to define criminal offenses.  New Jersey uses different terms with similar meanings: non-indictable and indictable.  If the offense is of the latter (indictable) your matter is handled at the Superior Court level.  Future blogs will talk about these alleged offenses.  Non-indictable matters are handled at the Municipal Court level.  Think of these courts as your “town courts” or “local courts”.

Municipal Courts in New Jersey are empowered to handle all types of alleged offenses.  Some are criminal or quasi-criminal: domestic violence, disorderly person assault cases, drug offenses and driving while intoxicated.  Others are not criminal: speeding, careless or reckless driving, violations of licensing, registration or insurance laws and other motor vehicle moving violations.

There is a tendency to believe that these matters in the municipal courts can be handled without a lawyer in order to save legal fees.  From the outset let me tell you that this is a big MISTAKE.  The legal fees that you certainly will save will be spent, in other ways, as you mishandle your case.  Let me tell you some of the little known truths about municipal courts:

1) Those with attorneys are usually treated better than those without  because attorneys serve as “buffers” between you and the prosecutor and the police.

2) Attorneys can say things to the prosecutor and police in a way that you cannot because you are the accused and shouldn’t be saying anything at all.

3) Attorneys can advance real legal arguments to the prosecutor as oppossed to those who “just wanna break”.

4) Prosecutors and police “lick their chops” when someone tries to handle their own case.  The same is not true when someone is represented by a lawyer.

5) You are entitled to speak with the prosecutor and sometimes the police, but they don’t have to offer you a deal or if they do, it may not be as good as the guy before you who had a lawyer.

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Personal Injuries at Work? Understanding the Maze of Worker’s Comp

Have you or someone you know suffered a personal injury at work?  Did you know that, with few exceptions, you cannot sue your employer?  Your primary source of recovery is through the worker’s compensation court system.  Knowing your rights and those of your employer are critical to navigating the worker’s comp maze.

First, most personal injuries at the workplace fall into two categories.  One is ACCIDENTAL and the other is OCCUPATIONAL.  If you suffer a specific injury on a date certain (e.g. you suffer a knee injury on April 23, 2012) then your claim is accidental.  If your injury is one that evolves over time and is not linked to a specific occurrence, then it is deemed occupational.  Most claims are admitted by the employer’s insurance company although in some instances they are denied until proven.  In each case a full investigation by all of the parties involved is required.

Typically, the worker that suffers personal injuries on the job is entitled to 3 types of benefits.  The first is MEDICAL BENEFITS.  Your employer and it’s insurance company are obligated to provide you with the medical treatment you need at absolutely no cost to you.  This is totally different from any health insurance benefits you may also receive through work.  Understand, however, that your employer’s insurance carrier is permitted to control the doctors and facilities that treat you.  You are not, absent an emergency,  permitted to treat on your own with the doctors of your own choosing. The worker’s comp insurance company, generally, won’t pay these bills.

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Personal Injuries: Don’t get hurt twice. Know your car insurance.

How many of us actually take the time to review the auto insurance coverage that we have?  How many of us simply renew our coverage, year to year, without really knowing what we’re buying?  Did you know that the personal injuries that you sustain in a car accident have more to do with your insurance policy than the person that hit you?

Your personal auto insurance controls what kinds of medical treatment you can receive, if you are allowed to sue to recover money damages for your personal injuries and the maximum amount of recovery you may be entitled to.  Recovery for serious personal injury is less to do with what kind of auto insurance the other guy has and a great deal to do with what you purchase.

Look at the DEC SHEET (Declarations Page) of your auto policy.  It’s the page with the personal & specific information about you, your family members and the cars you drive.  Under COVERAGES, the first two are about LIABILITY.  These are important because its what the company will pay the other guy if YOU cause the accident.  Make sure that you buy enough coverage to protect your assets.  The next two that are listed are just as, or more, important.  UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED MOTORISTS.  This is the coverage that applies when the other guy causes the accident but has no insurance or not enough for your personal injuries.  Buy as much of this coverage as your budget will allow!  Don’t look to the other guy to protect you…protect yourself.

The next section is PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION (PIP) and this deals with how much medical treatment you can receive.  Purchase enough to cover serious personal injuries from catastrophic auto accidents.  Choose deductibles and co-payment obligations that fit your budget.

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PERSONAL INJURY
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WORKERS COMPENSATION
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