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Superstorm Sandy and New Jersey Property Tax Appeals

This time every year is Property Tax Appeal season. My office gears up in January to help New Jersey residents obtain some level of relief from these oppressive property tax bills, and this year is no different.

What is different this year is the fact that so many properties, whether primary residences or vacation homes, were damaged or even washed away by Superstorm Sandy.

One question I’ve received several times this year is what to do, property tax-wise when properties were affected by Superstorm Sandy? It just so happens that in New Jersey, there’s a statute for that:

54:4-35.1 – Material depreciation of structure between October 2 and January 1; determination of value.

“When any parcel of real property contains any building or other structure which has been destroyed, consumed by fire, demolished, or altered in such a way that its value has materially depreciated, either intentionally or by the action of storm, fire, cyclone, tornado, or earthquake, or other casualty, which depreciation of value occurred after October first in any year and before January first of the following year, the assessor shall, upon notice thereof being given to him by the property owner prior to January tenth of said year, and after examination and inquiry, determine the value of such parcel of real property as of said January first, and assess the same according to such value.”  L.1945, c. 260, p. 789, s. 1.

Ordinarily, a property tax appeal deals with the value of the property as of October 1 of the prior year. For example, all appeals filed this year will argue over what the value of the property was as of October 1, 2012. Well, we all know that Sandy didn’t hit until October 29, 2012. The good news (if you can call it that) is that due to widespread devastation, municipalities have taken it upon themselves to perform a post-storm “reassessment” of the distressed properties. If you live in an area that was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, you should have received an updated assessment postcard from your municipality. Many towns, such as Toms River, have received an extension, and their postcards will be mailed on or around April 15, 2013.

The bad news is that every municipality is handling it differently and some are more organized and willing to give information than others. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU CONTACT YOUR TAX ASSESSOR/TAX COLLECTOR AND FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH REASSESSMENTS IN YOUR PARTICULAR TOWN.

If you receive your reassessment card, and you are not happy with the reassessment you are given, contact our office immediately to file an appeal. Some municipalities are giving an extension on the appeal filing date, but if nothing is said, assume that the deadline to file an appeal is April 1, like a normal year.

We are offering a discounted rate for homeowners whose property was adversely affected by Sandy, so please don’t hesitate to call (732) 444-6406 or email HolmlawNJ@gmail.com.

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Superstorm Sandy Continues to Impact New Jersey

Like many New Jersey residents, Superstorm Sandy left a hole in my heart. While I am not a native New Jerseyan, I have lived in the great Garden State for over 14 years, and it is my home. I love the Jersey Shore and spend my summers going to the beach in Manasquan. Sandy spared my family and most of my friends from devastation, but I still feel a tremendous sense of loss.My colleague Sandra was also lucky that her house and loved ones were mostly spared from Sandy’s wrath; however, her hometown of Union Beach, N.J., was not so lucky. Her childhood home had to be demolished, and many childhood friends and their family members are still struggling to figure out what to do next. Sandra has spent just about every weekend since the storm volunteering her time and legal services to the people of Union Beach, and I know she’s made a huge impact there.

Sandra and I want those of you who were affected by Sandy to know that we are here to help. We are offering discounted rates for Hurricane Sandy victims for Sandy-related legal services, as well as providing information and contacts for legal groups and firms in the area handling specific issues stemming from the storm. When we know of new information, we are posting it online via Twitter and Facebook so that you stay informed. Check back often for more detailed information posted on our blog and website.  — Nancy L. Holm

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Filed under General Practice Law Firm, Law Office of Nancy L Holm, Property Tax Appeals

“This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True.”

Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, William Shakespeare

I know, this is quite possibly the most over-quoted line from Shakespeare. There’s a reason for that: it’s a great line, and something everyone should aspire to do. It’s especially appropriate here on the Holmlaw Blog because it’s quite possibly Mission Statement Number One for the Law Office of Nancy L. Holm, LLC. It’s the reason I struck out on my own and started my own law firm, and it’s also my philosophy with clients, adversaries, the Court, and anyone else who does business with me or my law firm.

I’m the daughter of an attorney, niece of an attorney, and cousin of attorneys, and now I’m an attorney (God help the rest of our family). I’ve been support staff for two law firms, I’ve interned for a trial court judge, and I’ve been the law clerk to an Appellate Division judge. I’ve worked with attorneys in three different states, and I’ve gone to law school with some awesome up-and-coming attorneys. I’ve worked with and against other attorneys throughout the great State of New Jersey. Not to mention, I have been the client of an attorney. All of these experiences have shaped how I have designed my law firm and how I treat my clients.

(1)       No Nonsense Billing. Where possible, I charge a flat fee. This usually comes into play for Real Estate Transactions, Property Tax Appeals, Estate Planning Documents, and other areas. Litigation and Estate Administration, on the other hand, require a reasonable, hourly rate. When it comes to hourly billing, I’m not someone who “looks at the file” when nothing is going on so that I make a few bucks. I’m also not into nickel-and-diming my clients for things like a per-fax fee. What you see is what you get. When I work on your file, you know that I am actually working on your file – not just generating billable hours.

(2)       Flexible Time. I will meet clients when it is convenient for them – weekends, evenings, etc. People have to work. They can’t take off to come and visit me for a consultation many times.

(3)       No Passing the Buck. Many times, you sign on with a lawyer in a firm, then you get passed along to an associate or a paralegal, and you never hear from the attorney you met with again. While it’s great that the associate charges a lower rate (as does the paralegal), what happened to the person who ultimately convinced you to sign on with them? Many times, they will only swoop in at the end for trial or for the real estate closing.  Obviously at this moment in time, I’m a solo practitioner, so I can’t pass you on to anyone else, but that’s the beauty of hiring a solo – I’m your attorney from beginning to end. I will be fully familiar with your file, and we will get to know each other through the legal process.

(4)       Empathy and Understanding. There are a lot of great lawyers out there, and many extremely talented litigators. However, what seems to happen over time is that many lawyers forget that no matter the circumstances of the lawsuit or other legal transaction, they are still dealing with human beings. Human beings who are stressed, upset, and/or concerned about what to do next. While much of litigation is strategy and calculation, I understand that many people take lawsuits extremely personally. I try my best to take as much of the emotional burden off of my clients, and I am sensitive to the toll that lawsuits and other transactions can have on a client.

There is an attorney out there for everyone, and one that fits every personality. You have to find the attorney that fits you, and I encourage you to stay true to yourself in the process. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the best fit for you. I hope that you find my practice a good fit for your legal needs.

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Guardianship Checklist for Special Needs Children

If you are the parent of a special needs child, no matter what age, start thinking about guardianship.  Here is a “To Do” List to help get you started:

  • At age 17, contact an attorney to determine the fee schedule – if necessary, begin saving for the attorney’s fee or set the money aside as soon as possible.
  • Remember – if you are applying for the guardianship, you will also have to pay the court-appointed attorney’s fees.  Fees range from $1,200 and up, depending upon the complexity of the action and the individual’s fees.  Most judges will require that you pay the attorney within ten (10) days of the final judgment appointing you as guardian.
  • Begin discussing guardianship with family members.
  • If you are contemplating divorce from the parent of your special needs child, ensure that guardianship issues are discussed and settled in your divorce decree.
  • If you are already divorced and you have not settled this issue with your ex-spouse, begin that conversation – either yourself or through your family law attorney.  Contact a family law mediator to work through these issues.
  • Begin contemplating a Special Needs Trust – there are many financial issues that can impact the receipt of Medicaid and other government benefits.
  • Discuss estate planning with your spouse and grandparents regarding the special needs child as beneficiary – consult an attorney to determine the best way to do so in order to preserve the child’s entitlement to government benefits.

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