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  • Writer's pictureMohammed Fuad

Guest speaker at Canoe Club


THG/Mohammed Fuad. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Chris Bratton (right) spoke at the Hammonton Canoe Club last month about life care planning.

Chris Bratton of Bratton Law Group visited the Hammonton Canoe Club to talk about life care planning on Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. Bratton is the owner and managing attorney and Bratton Law Group specializes in wills and trusts, powers of attorneys, probate and estate administration, retirement and tax planning and asset protection for high net worth individuals.


Bratton has been practicing for 20 years and Bratton helps people plan their estates and whatever goals they have, they get them on the right path in achieving those goals, whether it’s providing for a spouse or their children and grandchildren.


“We have several attorneys that work for me and then we also have elder care coordinators that work for me. We have six of them and their job is to make sure that if any care is needed, they help coordinate that care and have the client moved to that continuum of care. Whether if they need some assistance in the house, we help them coordinate that assistance or if something happens in the hospital stay and then they go to rehab, we help them with that transition to rehab and then either back home maybe with care if needed or some people have to ultimately have to transition into assisted living,” Bratton said.


Bratton explained the estate planning process, how to pay for long term care, goals and how to accomplish it. People will either have a revocable based plan or a will based plan in the estate planning process, depending on the state you live in, the assets you have and whether you want to go through the probate process or not. Probate is the process of proving the will’s validity as long as it’s executed in compliance with statutes. Once a will is probated, it becomes public record.


A revocable trust is a document that outlines your assets and how you want it handled. There are some cases where a revocable trust is wanted such as if you own property in multiple states and if you want affairs to be kept private. It can hold real estate, investments, bank accounts, automobiles, anything that can be owned.


“When it’s revocable, it means you have full control over it. You can amend it, revoke it if you want to revoke it, it doesn’t change your tax filing status. It holds your assets for ease of distribution and management,” Bratton said.


If you don’t have a revocable trust and instead opt for a will, the will will dictate how assets are passed, who are the beneficiaries and what percentage, the executor and alternate executor.


“You may have a trust inside your will, so if you have kids or grandkids that you want to provide for and they’re under the age of majority or just maybe not mature enough yet and maybe they’re not great with money or creditor issues, you may want a trust for those beneficiaries. Then, you have to decide who’s going to be the trustee of that trust to control that money until they get it at whatever age you dictate,” Bratton said.


Bratton discussed the self-serving will and the will have two witnesses and a notary, by statute. The two witnesses are going to witness the trustee’s signature and the notary will witness both the trustee and two witnesses' signature. With a self-serving will, it should be taken to the surrogate and the surrogate probates the will. Short certificates and letters of testamentary are issued and then the executor moves forward with the marshaling of assets, paying any debts due and making distributions to the beneficiaries.


Bratton noted that New Jersey has an inheritance tax but the estate tax was eliminated by the federal government. The inheritance tax is based on the class of the individual that is receiving the inheritance. It wouldn’t apply to a parent, spouse, child, grandchild or any family member in your direct line but it does apply to siblings, nieces, nephews and friends. Any money left to a charity, the charity doesn’t pay taxes but an inheritance tax return has to be filed and notified to the attorney general as the attorney general makes sure that the charity receives the money.


Bratton Law Group serves in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties as well as Bucks County and Philadelphia. If you have any questions or want to get legal advice in your estate planning can contact them at (856) 857-6007.


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