Bamboozled: Facing bureaucracy in a time of grief

Closing out an estate after someone dies can be horribly frustrating. While the person in charge — the executor — is dealing withBB branding the emotions of losing a loved one, they’re fighting bureaucracy at every turn: gathering account statements, keeping bills up-to-date, investigating tax law.

Camela Hendry of Edison was responsible for taking care of the estate of her sister and brother-in-law, Louise and Albert Norton. The two died within months of each other, leaving Hendry responsible for both estates.

Among her duties was to file for the 2008 Homestead Rebate for the Nortons’ Barnegat home. She sent the required forms on May 21, 2009.

“I’m very meticulous in my paperwork,” said Hendry, wondering what was taking so long.

The months passed. Finally in December the family contacted Bamboozled for help.

“I just want to finish everything, resolve it, so the estate can be closed, but I can’t,” Hendry said.

We contacted the Division of Taxation, which requested another copy of the paperwork Hendry sent. After a few days, Hendry got a call explaining that the home did not qualify for the rebate.

11210Turns out that because the Nortons died prior to Oct. 1, their estates were not eligible for the 2008 rebate, even though the estate had been paying property taxes until the home was sold on Oct. 25 of that year.

Not the answer Hendry was expecting.

“The thing that frustrated me was the fact that they never contacted me,” Hendry said. “When you send the proper documents by certified mail with insurance, you wonder, ‘What did they do with it?’ It was probably sitting on someone’s desk. That bothers me more than anything else.”

At least now Hendry has an answer so she can complete her executor duties.

That experience begs the question: If the estate had been paying property taxes all those months, why isn’t it due a Homestead Rebate?

Pete Lowicki, assistant director of technical services for the Division of Taxation, explained that the rebate program is based on ownership and eligibility as a primary residence.

“There are many properties — vacation homes, a shore house, rental properties — that you pay property taxes for but you wouldn’t get a rebate on,” he said.

Under current rules, Oct. 1 is the residency cutoff, he said, and that’s why the Norton estate didn’t qualify.

“If there was an heir who resided in the property, the heir may have been eligible for the rebate,” Lowicki said.

Bamboozled understands why the estate didn’t qualify under current rules, but we’re not crazy about the current rules. This was an estate, not an income-producing vacation property. The estate paid property taxes on time, every time, as if the Nortons were still residing in the house.

We understand excluding rental properties and vacation homes from the program, but if it were up to Bamboozled, estates would fall into a different category. After all, the estate isn’t excused from paying property taxes because the homeowners dies.


Joseph Paskow of Livingston tries to be a responsible citizen.

So when he heard about the New Jersey Clean Energy Program’s Refrigerator/Freezer Recycling program, he decided it was time to get rid of the old, inefficient but still operational, spare refrigerator he kept in the garage of his home. As an incentive to get Garden Staters to participate, the program offered a $30 rebate.

On Aug. 21, Paskow’s refrigerator was picked up, and he was told it would take 90 to 120 days to receive the rebate.

The months passed, and 120 days later, Paskow still hadn’t received his check.

He called. And called. And called. He was told the check was on the way. But no check arrived.

Finally, he contacted Bamboozled.

We contacted Doyal Siddell, spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities, and he did some investigating.

“Mr. Pasko’s pickup for the refrigerator was such that he was one of the first participants in the program,” Siddell said. “We have had to work with the Treasury Department to set up payments, and it’s taken more time than we anticipated. We’re days behind with the first people.”

Within days after our call, Paskow received a phone call of his own. He was told they would overnight the check so he’d receive it on Dec. 31. And he did.

But for Paskow, it was never about the money. It was about a government agency sticking to its word.

“It gets to the point that you lose faith. You try to do a good thing and you get kicked in the butt,” he said.

The Refrigerator/Freezer Recycling program is on track now with payments, and it’s even offering a raise to new participants: $50.

To make sure you qualify and/or to participate, call (877) 270-3520 or visit the New Jersey Clean Energy Program online at


Last month, Bamboozled reported a scam about an e-mail from “United States Postal Inspection Service,’’ which said Customs had intercepted, and was holding, our package.

The package allegedly contained an ATM card with $1.5 million available.
We knew we couldn’t be that lucky. It was a hoax.

Bamboozled received an e-mail from Peter Rendina, a U.S. postal inspector in Washington, D.C. He said although the scam was new to Bamboozled, it wasn’t new to the Postal Inspection Service.

The Postal Inspection Service has seen this scam, Rendina said, noting its cyber investigations team is investigating these fraudulent messages.

He said the agency even posted a “Crime Alert” on its website,

“The American public is doing a better job recognizing these frauds/swindles but we need them to report the suspected scams,” Rendina said.

“The American public can report mail fraud and any other types of crime that could occur through the mail or impact the integrity of the Postal Service brand.’’

He asked that you, dear readers, visit the website to report anything suspicious, or call (877) 876-2455.

Let’s help these guys do their jobs.