When you think of the state of New Jersey and taxes, you usually expect them to be on the higher side relative to other states. When it comes to the “death tax” or estate taxes, New Jersey has surprisingly become more favorable over time. Many of our clients have trouble keeping track of these laws due to the changes that were made in the past and different classes of beneficiaries that can inherit assets.
States that have a death tax tend collect revenue in one of two ways: through an estate tax or through an inheritance tax. The good news is that New Jersey eliminated the estate tax for those dying on or after January 1, 2018. The New Jersey Inheritance tax, however, was never repealed and so this separate tax can still have an effect on the amount a beneficiary ultimately keeps.
So we have established that NJ residents do not have to worry about an NJ Estate Tax but how does this inheritance tax work? Well, New Jersey has created four separate “classes” for beneficiaries. Depending on which class the beneficiary falls in determines the tax that they would owe, if any.
Class A Beneficiaries
Class A beneficiaries are exempt from NJ Inheritance taxes. These beneficiaries could be the decedent’s spouse, civil union partner, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, stepchildren, parents or grandparents. Directly up or down your family line is one way to think of this class. Since these beneficiaries are not subject to estate OR inheritance taxes, leaving assets to those that fall under Class A is generally advisable for NJ residents where possible.
Class C Beneficiaries
Class C beneficiaries (note that class B was eliminated in 1963) include the decedent’s brothers or sisters, half siblings, son or daughter in-laws, widow of a deceased son and finally widower of a deceased daughter. This class is not exempt from inheritance tax for any amount greater than $25,000. Their tax schedule is as follows:
- 11% tax on any amount over $25,000 up to $1,100,000
- 13% tax on amounts over $1,100,000 up to $1,400,000
- 14% on amounts over $1,400,000 up to $1,700,000
- 16% on any amount over $1,700,000
Class D Beneficiaries
Class D beneficiaries include anyone that did not fall under class A or C. This could be nieces or nephews, cousins, friends, etc. Their tax schedule is 15% on any amount up to $700,000 and then 16% for any amount north of $700,000.
Class E Beneficiaries
Class E beneficiaries are tax-exempt charities and non-profit organizations. Like class A, this class is exempt from New Jersey Inheritance Tax.
Financial planning can help clients decide the best way to leave money to various beneficiaries. If you wanted to leave money to a friend, for instance, it may be better to make them a beneficiary to a life insurance policy that is exempt from the NJ Inheritance tax as opposed to leaving another asset to them that would be subject to this taxation. If you have a home in another state, you should compare NJ laws to the other state’s laws to consider which death taxes are more favorable.
One final note is that your estate is exempt from the federal estate tax up to $12.92 million for 2023 and $25.84 million if you are married. As always, working with financial professionals can help you keep more of what you have by helping you develop the appropriate estate plan to accomplish your wishes.
CRA Investment Committee
Matt Reynolds CPA, CFP®
Tom Reynolds, CPA
Robert T. Martin, CFA, CFP®
Gordon Shearer Jr., CFP®
Jeff Hilliard, CFP®, CRPC®
Joe McCaffrey, CFP®
(This article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as the basis for an investment decision. Consult your financial adviser, as well as your tax and/or legal advisers, regarding your personal circumstances before making investment decisions.)