Homestead Benefit Program

New Jersey offers homeowners a rebate program called the Homestead Benefit Program. It is sometimes referred to as the Homestead Rebate. The Homestead Benefit Program was enacted in the 1970’s to provide relief from the State’s increasingly high property taxes.

Who is eligible for the Homestead Benefit?

You may be eligible for the 2016 Homestead Benefit Program if, as of October 1, 2016, you:

  1. Were a New Jersey resident;
  2. Owned and occupied a home in New Jersey that was your principal residence*;
  3. Property taxes for 2016 were paid on that home; and
  4. Met the 2016 income requirements: (a) $150,000 for homeowners age 65 or over or blind or disabled; or (b) $75,000 for homeowners under age 65 and not blind or disabled.

*If you were not a homeowner on October 1, 2016, you are not eligible for a Homestead benefit, even if you owned a home for part of the year.

You are not eligible unless you are required to pay property taxes on your home. You are not eligible for a benefit for a vacation home, “second home,” or property you owned and rented to someone else. If you owned more than one property in New Jersey, you can only file an application for the property that was your principal residence on October 1, 2016.

How Can I Receive my Benefit?

There are two ways to get your Homestead Benefit. The first is a credit on your property tax bill. The second is a check or direct deposit BUT ONLY IF (1) your home was a unit in a co-op or a continuing care retirement community or (2) you indicated that you no longer owned your home.

If you sold your home or will close before November 30, 2018, you must answer “No” to the question of whether you still own the property. This way, you can choose to receive a check or direct deposit. If you don’t, you may lose the benefit altogether.

Our clients sometimes have trouble when they sell their home before a Homestead Benefit is applied to the property tax bill. Unfortunately, the options are extremely limited. The buyer can reimburse the sellers for the benefit amount after closing, if they agree. Alternatively, the benefit amount can be adjusted at closing, if the benefit amount is known. You should notify your closing attorney as soon as possible so that negotiations can be conducted with the buyer’s attorney.

The deadline to file the 2016 Homestead Benefit application is November 30, 2018.

To see how Homestead Benefits are calculated and for a list of other frequently asked questions, visit the NJ Division of Taxation’s website at: https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/homestead/geninf.shtml.

If you have questions about buying or selling real estate, please call us at 732.552.0900 to schedule a consultation. Costanzo & Russom Law Group, LLC handles hundreds of real estate closings all across the State each year. Let our experience benefit you!

How an Estate Plan Saves You (Yes, You!) Money

People often focus on “how much” it costs to draw up an estate plan. In most cases, it’s more important to understand what it costs when you DON’T have an estate plan in place.

Every adult should have a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, and Living Will in place. Depending on where you live, a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney and a basic set of documents will probably cost less than $500.

But what will it cost if something happens to you without a plan in place? Here are a few of the “costs” you might not have considered:

  • Without a Last Will and Testament:

    • Your property passes to your intestate heirs. For most people, this is NOT the State. In New Jersey, it’s generally your closest living relatives. This might not be who you want to receive your assets (Do you have a blended family? Estranged child? Prefer to benefit someone else? Want to benefit a charity?);
    • Your next of kin will have to agree on who will administer your Estate. The administrator must be bonded. A bond, in this context, is like an insurance policy that the individual will properly administer the Estate. Bond premiums are based on several factors, including the size of the Estate and the administrator’s credit. Bonds must be renewed while the Estate is open. The bond requirement can be waived in a Will. This alone usually saves your family more money than the cost of a Will;
    • You won’t have nominated guardians for your minor children. The court decides;
    • Minors receive their inheritances outright at eighteen (18).
  • Without a Power of Attorney:

    • Your loved ones must seek court authority to manage your affairs during your lifetime if something happens to you. This process, even when uncontested, typically costs around $5,000 between attorneys fees and court costs. It can take several months to finalize. Court permission/approval is required for many things thereafter;
    • You don’t get to choose who manages your affairs during your lifetime.
  • Without a Living Will:

    • Your loved ones bear the burden of making end-of-life decisions for you;
    • Your decisions for end-of-life treatment aren’t memorialized;
    • You may be subjected to medical treatments that you would rather not endure.

Costanzo & Russom Law Group, LLC can help you put an estate plan in place to protect you and your family from these hidden “costs.” Call (732) 552-0900 to set up an appointment!

Blog Updates Coming Soon

In in effort to stay better connected to you, our loyal clients, we will be rolling out more frequent updates, right here on our website.

The legal landscape is ever-changing. You need to stay informed to make the most sound decisions for yourself and your family. It is in this vein that we will begin posting.

Blog posts will be prepared for informational purposes only and will be neither intended nor interpreted to be legal advice or opinion.