New Jersey has many different types of taxes, including two different taxes on death: the NJ Estate Tax and the New Jersey inheritance tax. The New Jersey estate tax is a tax on transfers at death and certain transfers in contemplation of death.
Transfers to charities, a surviving spouse or a surviving Civil Union partner are exempt from the NJ estate tax. Transfers to anyone else are taxable to the extent that the transfer exceeds $675,000. New Jersey never does anything in a simple manner, and it does not technically offer a $675,000 exemption from the estate tax. NJ actually exempts the first $60,000 of transfer and then taxes the next $615,000 at 0%. The effect of this is that the first $675,000 can almost always pass to whomever you want tax free.
Each New Jersey resident is entitled to the NJ estate tax exemption. Accordingly, married couples and Civil Union couples can double the amount that they pass on to their children with proper planning. (This usually involves setting up a bypass trust for the surviving partner or spouse rather than leaving them money outright.)
The New Jersey estate tax is a progressive tax, meaning that the more you pass on, the higher the tax rate. The NJ estate tax rate generally varies from 0% to 16% depending upon the amount of the transfer. The major exception is that for the first $52,175 over $675,000, there is a 37% tax. For a detailed breakdown of the tax rates, see page 10 of the New Jersey Estate Tax Return.
New Jersey offers two different method of calculating the state estate tax on the NJ Estate Tax Return: the 706 method and the so called "Simplified Method". The Simplified Method allows the executor or administrator of the estate to avoid filing a 2001 version of the federal estate return, but it often results in a higher tax. For this reason, it is often advisable to hire a competent estate planning attorney to minimize this tax liability.
A decedent's estate can be subject to both the NJ estate and inheritance taxes. New Jersey does offer some relief if an estate is subject to both taxes. For example, if a person with $1,000,000 dies and leaves the entire amount to her nephew, this transfer would be subject to both taxes. A transfer of one million dollars in normally subject to a $33,200 New Jersey estate tax. A transfer of this amount though is also subject to a $150,000 New Jersey inheritance tax. In such an instance, New Jersey would only collect only the higher tax, the 15% inheritance tax in this case.
The NJ estate tax is due within 9 months from the date of the decedent's death. This is different than the NJ inheritance tax, which is due within 8 months from the date of the decedent's death.
The NJ estate tax should not be confused with the federal estate tax. Unless Congress acts to extend the repeal of the federal estate tax (which I think to be highly unlikely), the United States will have a separate and additional tax on death.
Jason Matey, Lawyer