Execute a Power of Attorney Before It’s Too Late

A durable power of attorney is an extremely important estate planning tool, even more important than a will in many cases.  This crucial document allows a person you appoint — your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” — to act in place of you — the “principal” — for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated due to dementia or some other reason.  The agent under the power of attorney can quickly step in and take care of your affairs.

But in order to execute a power of attorney and name an agent to stand in your shoes, you need to have capacity.  Regrettably, many people delay completing this vital estate planning step until it’s too late and they no longer are legally capable of doing it.

What happens then? Without a durable power of attorney, no one can represent you unless a court appoints a conservator or guardian. That court process takes time, costs money, and the judge may not choose the person you would prefer. In addition, under a guardianship or conservatorship, the representative must seek court permission to take planning steps that he or she could have implemented immediately under a durable power of attorney with gifting authority.

This is why it’s so important that you have a durable power of attorney in place before the capacity to execute the document is lost.

If you do not have someone you trust to appoint as your agent, it may be more appropriate to have the probate court looking over the shoulder of the person who is handling your affairs through a guardianship or conservatorship.

Because you need a third party to assess capacity and because you need to be certain that the formal legal requirements are followed, it can be risky to prepare and execute legal documents on your own without representation by an attorney. For assistance executing a durable power of attorney before it’s too late, contact the elder law and estate planning attorneys at Costanzo & Russom Law Group, LLC.

How Likely Are You to Need Long-Term Care?

Planning for retirement and deciding whether to buy long-term care insurance would be a lot easier if you knew your odds of needing long-term care, as well as at what age and for how long. Unfortunately, there’s no definite answer. On the other hand, some statistics do provide a bit of guidance.

The Numbers

In 2012, there were about 1.2 million nursing home residents over 65 years old in the United States. Of these, 18 percent were 65 to 74 years old, 32 percent were between 75 and 84, 41 percent were between 85 and 94, and 9 percent were 95 or older. Of course, there are fewer of us in each age cohort, so the likelihood of needing nursing home care rises even more steeply with age than these percentages indicate. While these numbers do not reflect other types of long-term care, the need for home care, assisted living, or care provided by family members probably rises at similar rates.

According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, in 2012 64 percent of long-term care claims were made by those over age 80 and only 9 percent were from those in their 60s. Meanwhile, according to the association’s figures for 2008, 44 percent nursing home residents stay less than a year, 30 percent stay between one and three years, and only 24 percent spend more than three years in a facility. Updated numbers would likely indicate even shorter stays as more seniors receive care at home or in assisted living facilities. Those who move to nursing homes do so when they are older and sicker, meaning that they stay for a shorter period of time than in the past. According to one reported statistic, only 40 percent of seniors spend any time in a nursing home.

Interpreting the Numbers

So, what do all of these statistics mean in terms of your planning? First, the odds are that you will not need care until you are at least 80 or 85. Second, if you do need nursing home care, there’s a 44 percent chance it will last less than a year (either because you will return home after a period of rehabilitation or you will not survive more than a year) and only a one-in-four chance that your stay will last three or more years. Of course, if it does, your costs will become prohibitive. However, since only 40 percent of seniors spend any time in a nursing home and only a quarter of those stay longer than three years, this means that statistically you have only a one in 10 chance of needing more than three years of nursing home care.

Unfortunately, these statistics are somewhat dated and are just statistics. How do any of us know whether we are part of the 60 percent of seniors who will never enter a nursing home, the 30 percent who will spend less than three years there, or the 10 percent who will spend more than three years? We don’t, but we can modify the statistics based on our own circumstances, especially with respect to certain factors.

Key Factors

Family History: Did your parents live to a ripe old age with no cognitive impairment or become demented at 72, requiring continuing care for another 10 years? While we do not have our parents’ exact genes or live their same lifestyle, there are likely to be some similarities.

Health and Fitness: Do you have any illnesses or conditions that could lead to future impairments or are you in good health and take good care of yourself? Are you overweight or obese, which can lead to illness and disability? Of course, in terms of long-term care, health can cut in both directions. Bad health can lead to the need for care or it can cause an early death, eliminating the need for care. Good physical health can delay the need for care but in the event of cognitive challenges mean that you live a long time with impairments.

Family Situation: If you do need assistance in the future, do you have a spouse, children or other family members who could provide care? Or would you need to pay for it whether at home, in assisted living or in a nursing home?

We have statistics on the need for nursing home care because nursing homes are highly regulated. We know how many people are in them at any one time and how long they stay. We don’t know for sure how many seniors are receiving care at home or in assisted living facilities. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that for every person living in a nursing home, there’s another receiving care at home or in assisted living. Then we can assess the average likelihood of needing care as follows:

No Need for Care  22%

 0 – 1 Year  35%

 1 – 3 Years 24%

 More than 3 Years 19%

Then, you can adjust these numbers up or down based on your health, family history and family situation. For instance, if you are in excellent health, you might add 10 percentage points to the likelihood that you will not need any care, reducing the likelihood of needing 1 to 3 years or more than 3 years of care by 5 percentage points each. If, on the other hand, one of your parents needed a decade of care due to Alzheimer’s disease, you might add 5 percentage points each to the longer levels of care, taking 5 percent off of both the “no need” and the “less than one year” categories. Statistically, men are more likely to receive assistance from their wives, than women from their husbands, in large part because women live longer on average.

While this is far from perfect, by developing your own table you will have a better idea of how to protect yourself and your family’s finances should you require long-term care.  Costanzo & Russom Law Group, LLC can help with this planning, explaining your options and the steps that can be taken now to prevent financial devastation later.

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!

Ice & Snow – Remove It Before You Go | Toms River Attorney

Break out that snow shovel or snow blower and the snow brush and scraper! That beautiful coat of white snow atop your driveway, sidewalk and car could cost you greatly if you don’t remove it.

Property

As a property owner, you have legal obligations to keep your property clean, safe and free of ice. Not only could you face fines, but you could also face a lawsuit if someone is hurt. For instance, Toms River will penalize you $100 for your first offense and $200 for each subsequent offense up to $1,000.00 (each day is a separate offense). Brick is cracking down as well, and the ordinance dealing with penalties is a default provision which indicates a fine not to exceed $2,000 or no more than 90 days community service. There are also time limits within which you must have the snow removed. Check your local municipality for exact time frames.

What’s worse is that if you do not shovel the snow, and someone is injured because of that, you may be liable for their injuries. Property owners must use reasonable care in keeping their property safe, and if someone gets hurt because of an unsafe condition, that owner may be brought into a lawsuit.

Although you may be an expert shoveler, sometimes you may miss a spot. So you should ensure you have liability insurance coverage to pay the cost of your legal defense and any court awards (up to the limit of your policy) should someone be injured on your property and sue you. Check with your insurance agent for the best coverage.

Vehicles

Not only is there a requirement to keep your property safe, but in New Jersey, you break the law when you do not remove the ice and snow from your vehicle.

Ice & Snow – Remove It Before You Go

I’m sure you’ve seen the famous and oh-so-clever jingle on your way to work, but it is a serious law in New Jersey. You have to remove all the ice and snow from your vehicle before driving it on the road — from the hood, windows and roof. If you don’t, you face fines from $25 to $75 for each offense whether or not the ice or snow is dislodged from your car. The fines are increased if ice or snow flies off your car or truck and causes property damage or injury to others: $200 to $1,000 for each offense. And don’t forget the ever-impending civil lawsuit for injuries that could always come your way if your negligence causes another driver’s injuries in an accident.

According to www.nj.gov, there are approximately 500 fatalities in the United States per year due to winter road conditions. In an effort to combat that statistic, the State of New Jersey gives the following Winter Driving Tips:

  • Drive slow (at or below the posted speed limit) and adjust your speed accordingly for the changing road conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights, using low beams when traveling in snow.
  • Increase your following distance. In winter weather, travel at least 8 to 10 seconds behind the car in front of you.
  • Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, take extreme caution in doing so. Remember, a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see him, but they don’t always see you.
  • If you skid, don’t brake or accelerate. Remove your foot from the gas, and gently steer your car in the direction of the skid (the direction the rear of your vehicle is sliding). When your car starts heading in the desired direction, carefully straighten the wheel.
  • Slow down before exiting the highway. Exit ramps often have icy patches, sharp curves and stalled and/or stopped vehicles.
  • Have a personal safety kit easily accessible in your vehicle that includes the following: an ice scraper/brush; shovel; jumper cables or battery starter; blanket; sand, salt or kitty litter for traction; lock de-icer; flashlight and new batteries; extra windshield wiper fluid; safety flares/warning device; cell phone with spare battery; water and non-perishable food (i.e., granola or protein bars); and paper towels or a cloth.
  • If your vehicle does become disabled, pull off the road as far as possible and turn on your emergency flashers. Remain with your vehicle until help arrives. If you can’t get your vehicles off the road and are uncertain about your safety, do not stay in your vehicle or stand behind it. Proceed carefully to a safe location away from traffic.

How the Law Offices of Apicelli, Costanzo & Russom can help you:

If you were seriously injured because of someone else’s negligence, call us today! Because there are time limitations on how long you have to file a lawsuit, it is very important that you do not sit on your rights. If the accident lawyers here at the Law Offices of Apicelli, Costanzo & Russom take your personal injury case, we will begin work right way to make sure that we preserve as much evidence as possible to help you recover a settlement for your damages.

Our NJ car accident attorneys are experienced in dealing with insurance companies and can help you obtain an award that adequately compensates you for your injuries and suffering. As a client-focused law firm, we will not hesitate to pursue your rights in court if the responsible party refuses to make you a reasonable offer in satisfaction of your injuries.

No fees unless we recover money for you. If you retain the NJ injury lawyers here at the Law Offices of Apicelli, Costanzo & Russom to represent you on a personal injury matter, we will not charge you a fee for our services if we do not recover money for you.

Contact us today to tell us about your case and see how an experienced NJ personal injury attorney can help you.

Sender of Text to Driver Liable for Injury

It is well known that New Jersey has banned the general use of cell phones while driving (N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3). This includes texting, talking and even web surfing on your mobile phone. While the law allows the use of a cell phone under limited circumstances, the law is clear that cell phone use is no longer tolerated in this state.

A recent case has put further limits on the use of cell phones even if the person isn’t driving at all. In Kubert v. Best, it was held that the sender of a text message can be liable for injuries if a driving accident was caused because the driver of the automobile was distracted by the texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the driver-recipient would read the text while driving and thus be distracted.

In this case, David Kubert and his wife, Linda, both lost their left legs as a result of being hit by a pick-up truck driven by Kyle Best (18 years old), who crossed the double center line of the road and traveled into the Kuberts’ lane. Best called 9-1-1 15 seconds after 5:49 p.m., which was 17 seconds after Best sent a text to Shannon Colonna, a girl he had been texting all day. It was inferred that this text to her was in response to a text he received from Colonna 25 seconds earlier.

After settling their claims against Best, the Kuberts brought suit against Colonna, arguing that she is liable to them if her text to Best was a proximate cause of the accident. Colonna was not held liable, as the evidence was insufficient against her.

It is not enough to establish that the text sender sent the message to a specific person, even if the sender knew the recipient was then driving. It was concluded that proof of liability is sufficient where the text sender knew the text recipient was then driving, that the text sender knew or had special reason to know that the driver would read the text message while driving, and would thus be distracted from attending to the road and the operation of the vehicle. A text sender can safely assume that the driver-recipient will view and read the text message when it is safe to do so. However, if the text sender knows that the driver-recipient will view and read the text message immediately upon receipt, then the text sender has distracted the driver and can be fairly held liable for the results.

The way to avoid a result like this is easy: DO NOT SEND TEXT MESSAGES TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW ARE CURRENTLY DRIVING. Otherwise, a text sent to a driver can make you just as liable for causing an accident as the one behind the wheel.

Proposed Anti-Gun Laws in New Jersey

In the wake of one of the most—probably the most—devastating and horrendous shooting massacres in recent history, which occurred at the hand of Adam Lanza in Newton, Connecticut, anti- and pro-firearms activists around the country have called for a re-examination of the current laws in effect controlling the rights of Americans to own and bear firearms. Whether you own firearms, despise them, or are indifferent to them, you probably have an opinion on how mass-murdering shooters like Adam Lanza or James Holmes, the Batman shooter, can be prohibited or prevented from getting their hands on firearms. Most propose New Jersey anti-gun laws, rather than pro-gun laws. Legislators of the State of New Jersey have heard the opinions of the people and firearms activists and have proposed quite a number of laws that they hope can halt the risk of mass-shootings at its core. The following is a short synopsis of the major bills proposed in the State of New Jersey:

  • Assembly Bill 3664 sponsored by Representatives Joseph Cryan (D), Jason O’Donnell (D), and Mila Jasey (D). “This bill revises the definition of ‘large capacity ammunition magazine’ to reduce the number of rounds of ammunition a legal magazine may hold in this State. Under current law, it is unlawful to own or possess an ammunition magazine that is capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition. This bill would reduce the maximum capacity of a legal ammunition magazine in New Jersey to five rounds.”
  • Assembly Bill 3676 sponsored by Representative Angelica Jimenez (D). “This bill would require any person applying for a firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun to submit the results of a psychological evaluation before being issued the card or permit. Under the bill, the Superintendant of State Police would be responsible for issuing guidelines concerning the content of the psychological examination, the qualifications necessary to administer the psychological examination, maintaining confidentiality of the subject of the examination, compliance with federal law, and any other guideline the superintendant deems necessary. The bill also would require applicants to have an on-site inspection and evaluation of the household where the firearm will be located.”
  • Assembly Bill 3688 sponsored by Representatives Charles Mainor (D) and Angelica Jimenez (D). “This bill would require any person applying for a firearms purchaser identification card or handgun purchase permit to submit the results of a mental health evaluation as a prerequisite for issuance of the card or permit. The bill also would require applicants to submit a list of the names of every person residing in the applicant’s household and whether the person has a mental illness. In light of the recent mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 six- and seven-year old students and six adults were killed by a gunman with a history of mental illness, it is the sponsor’s intent that any person in this State who wants to purchase a firearm must first meet a certain standard of mental capacity to do so.”
  • Assembly Bill 3666 sponsored by Representatives Joseph Cryan (D), Jason O’Donnell (D), and Mila Jasey (D). “This bill would make mail order, Internet, telephone, and any other anonymous method of ammunition sale or transfer illegal in New Jersey. The provisions of the bill require that all ammunition sales and transfers be consummated as face-to-face transactions and that at the time of the sale or transfer the purchaser or recipient display a valid form of picture identification to the person selling or transferring the ammunition. Face-to-face transactions are defined as sales or transfers in which the purchaser, transferee, or assignee is in the physical presence of the seller, transferor, or assigner. Under the bill, a violator would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Federal and State licensees and dealers, law enforcement agencies and officials, and collectors when purchasing, acquiring, or transferring ammunition which is recognized as being historical in nature or of historical significance, are exempted from the provisions of the bill.”
  • Senate Bill 2464 sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner (D). “This bill would regulate the sale of rifle and shotgun ammunition. Under the provisions of the bill, only individuals who hold and can display a valid firearms purchaser identification card, a valid copy of a permit to purchase a handgun, a valid permit to carry a handgun, or a valid New Jersey hunting license would be permitted to purchase and possess rifle or shotgun ammunition in this State. The bill exempts individuals who are collectors of firearms or ammunition as curios or relics who purchase, receive, acquire, possess, or transfer rifle ammunition or shotgun ammunition which is recognized as being historical in nature or of historical significance. The bill also provides an exemption for law enforcement personnel and law enforcement purposes. In addition, the bill permits the transfer of some ammunition for use in a lawfully transferred firearm for (1) use on a firing range operated by a licensed dealer, a law enforcement agency, a legally recognized military organization, or a registered rifle or pistol club; (2) hunting; or (3) training purposes. The bill’s restrictions on the sale and possession of ammunition do not apply to blank ammunition, air gun pellets, flare gun ammunition, nail gun ammunition, paint ball ammunition, or any non-fixed ammunition.”
  • Assembly Bill 3659 sponsored by Representative Peter Barnes (D). “This bill amends N.J.S.2C:39-1 to revise the definition of ‘destructive device’ so that it includes weapons of 50 caliber or greater. Although it centers primarily on devices or instruments designed to explode or produce uncontrolled combustion, the current statutory definition of ‘destructive device’ also includes weapons which fire projectiles of greater than 60 caliber. Under the bill and subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:39-3, it would be unlawful to possess a firearm having a caliber of 50 or greater. A person violating this provision would be guilty of a crime of the third degree. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000, imprisonment for three to five years, or both. The bill does, however, provide exemptions for 1) antique firearms; 2) antique handguns; 3) muzzleloader rifles; and 4) black powder muzzleloaders having in-line ignition, a center hammer or an under hammer which have been approved for hunting in this State. These firearms would continue to be governed by the statute’s current ‘greater than 60 caliber’ restriction. Antique firearms and handguns are defined in the statutes as firearms which: (1) do not fire fixed ammunition or were manufactured before 1898 and for which fixed ammunition is not commercially available; and (2) are possessed as a curiosity or ornament or for their historical significance or value.  The statutory definition of ‘antique handgun’ includes replicas; under this bill, ‘antique firearm’ and ‘antique cannon’ are also defined to include replicas. The bill defines a muzzleloader rifle to mean a single shot, single barrel, side lock percussion or flintlock firearm with iron or peep sights, or with a fiber optic sight or scope, and a stock made of wood or any synthetic material. The bill also excludes from the definition of a destructive device any firearm with a bore diameter larger than 60 caliber whose principle means of ignition are traditional flintlock or caplock and whose principle propellant is black powder.  This would allow the possession of certain weapons greater than 60 caliber currently used by revolutionary war re-enactors. Under the provisions of the bill, it would be unlawful for anyone to possess a prohibited firearm of 50 caliber or greater. The bill, however, grants individuals who lawfully own one of these prohibited firearms one year in which to dispose of them. To facilitate the voluntary surrender of these firearms, the bill authorizes the Superintendent of State Police to establish a buyback program. Funding for this program is to be provided by the Attorney General from the proceeds acquired from the property and valuables forfeited by convicted criminals. Those not wishing to participate in this buyback program may (1) sell their prohibited firearm to someone who is authorized to lawfully possess it or (2) render the prohibited firearm inoperable and so notify the appropriate law enforcement agency. Finally, the bill affords immunity from prosecution to individuals during the interim between the effective date of the bill and the actual establishment of the buyback program. Thereafter, the bill affords immunity from prosecution to individuals for their actions associated with their participation in the buyback programs.”

NOTE: This blog post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended nor should it be interpreted to be legal advice or opinion.

DWI: Ignition-Lock Device instead of License Suspension? | Toms River Attorney

A bill was approved by the Senate panel on Monday, January 28, 2013, that would make the mandatory installation of ignition-interlock devices the main penalty in most drunk-driving matters rather than license suspension. The bill was advanced by a 12-0 vote, with one abstention.

Under the bill, first-time DUI offenders could continue driving their vehicles as long as the mandated ignition-interlock devices are installed. Ignition interlock devices allow the vehicle to start if the driver produces a clean breath sample. The devices typically require intermittent samples to allow the continued operation of the vehicle as well. Second or subsequent DWI offenders would need a restricted-use license which would allow only work-related or other driving travel set by a judge for at least the first year the interlock device is installed in the offender’s vehicle.

If you’ve been charged with a DWI (also known as Driving Under the Influence, or DUI), you should contact an experienced attorney. The Law Offices of Apicelli & Costanzo provides aggressive representation against all DWI and traffic offenses. We are dedicated to mitigating the adverse consequences posed by DWI and motor vehicle offenses. Our firm has represented many clients that have received traffic summonses in the municipal courts of Toms River, Ocean County, and across the entire State of New Jersey. Contact us, and let us assist you in protecting your rights.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended nor should it be interpreted to be legal advice or opinion.

Governor Christie & the Doggie Seat Belt Law | Toms River Attorney

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently stated that he won’t be signing a proposed law that would require drivers to secure their dogs and cats with a harness much like a seat belt while driving. Governor Christie believes that lawmakers are wasting their time considering the proposal while what the State of New Jersey really needs is tax cuts, ethics reforms, and a boost in revenue and employment rates.

This reminds me of how everyone reacted when they realized that the United States Congress was holding hearings on professional baseball and the use of steroids. Don’t you think the State of New Jersey (and the United States Congress) might have better things to do with its time? Governor Christie said that he can’t believe that the State is wasting its time considering such a law. “This will tell you everything you need to know about how New Jersey runs under the Democrats,” said Christie on a local radio show.

The proposed bill is supported by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, a Newark Democrat who apparently owns a Pomeranian named A.J., five cats, and a rabbit. Violators of the law would receive a $25.00 ticket which could escalate to even higher fines. Christie said that if this law gets past the Legislature, he would not put his name anywhere near it.

Assemblywoman Spencer, a liability-law attorney, said the problem she seeks to eliminate is a big-ticket issue compared to driving distractions such as texting, talking on your phone, and recalculating your GPS while driving. I can see where Governor Christie is coming from, though. Don’t cats always land on their feet? And don’t dogs like hanging their head out the window and feeling the wind blasting them in the face? A seat belt would hinder them from doing these things. I guess both points of view should be given equal weight.

What do you think?

National Estate Planning Awareness Week | Toms River Attorney

Are you one of the estimated 120 million people that do not have an up-to-date estate plan?  October 15th through October 21st is National Estate Planning Awareness Week and an excellent reminder to make sure your affairs are in order, in the event of illness or an unexpected accident. All too often, people neglect proper planning, believing that they will not benefit from estate planning or that there will always be time to “do it later.” This month, take the time to plan for your future.

Estate planning is an important process that can help protect you, your family, and your assets. If your estate plan is not up to date, and you are incapacitated or unexpectedly pass away, your loved ones may be unable to manage your affairs or manage them in the way you would wish. Proper estate planning can not only save you and your loved ones significant amounts of money, but it also gives you peace of mind.

Most people should have at least three documents in their estate plan, including a Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, and a Living Will. For more information on each of these documents, please review our estate planning section and call us if you would like to schedule an appointment to have your estate plan updated.

In support of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, the Law Offices of Apicelli & Costanzo is offering a 10% discount off one estate planning document during the month of October.