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New Jersey Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning topics: Planning one's own funeral

  • 28
  • July
    2014

One of the most appealing aspects of creating an estate plan is having the ability to clearly outline one’s wishes. A great deal of confusion, misunderstanding and tension can arise after the death of a loved one, and spelling out one’s wishes in a clearly constructed estate planning package can help ease those sources of stress. In this regard, planning one’s own funeral is one of the most important gifts that a New Jersey resident can give to his or her loved ones.

Handling one’s own funeral planning ensures that the service will be conducted in line with an individual’s wishes. For some, this means adherence to religious traditions. For others, it means that loved ones will attend a service that celebrates the life of the individual who has passed on, and is upbeat in nature. Regardless of the tone one wishes to strike with the gathering, handling the details ahead of time allows family members to avoid the rush of planning and decision-making that often accompanies the death of a loved one.

Prenup as part of estate planning for second and third marriages

  • 25
  • July
    2014

New Jersey couples that want to ensure that their marriage will revolve around a loving union rather than material assets may find that a prenuptial agreement could ensure the peace of mind required to focus on their relationship. Although a prenuptial agreement may sound very unromantic, couples that get married for a second or third time may use such an agreement as part of their estate planning. This is especially true when an older person with considerable assets plans to marry someone who is much younger.

It is not uncommon for the children of, for example, an older man who plans to marry a much younger woman, to believe that the new bride-to-be is after their father’s money. A prenuptial agreement may set their minds at ease, and the father can ensure that the assets intended for his children will be protected. Similarly, consider an older woman, who is reasonably affluent, marrying a much younger man without assets. In the event of the wife’s death -- with an agreement in place -- the property will go to her children. If the husband has occupancy rights, the wife’s children will receive the property upon his death.

Misconceptions about the estate planning process

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  • July
    2014

Most New Jersey residents are aware that there is a need to address estate planning at an early age. However, quite a few hold common misconceptions about the process or individual aspects of estate planning. The following are just a few issues that are commonly misunderstood, and which can lead to serious consequences if not properly addressed.

One common belief is that an individual does not need to create a trust until their level of wealth exceeds $5 million or some other stated value. In reality, trusts are an important estate planning tool that can be put to use for people who hold far less wealth. The decision to create a trust actually has very little to do with one’s overall level of wealth, and more to do with how they would like to be able to control those assets.

Include the digital realm in asset protection planning

  • 15
  • July
    2014

For most New Jersey residents, the digital world is a part of their daily life. We use the Internet for shopping, communication, storage of files and photos and more. An increasing portion of our lives is stored online, and that trend seems destined to continue. When considering estate planning needs, many people fail to recognize the importance of including their digital holdings within their asset protection strategy.

In fact, many people are not even aware of the scope of their digital assets. We have grown so accustomed to holding our wealth in a more tangible form that it can be difficult to appreciate the value of those things that exist primarily online. Examples vary from online banking accounts and frequent flyer miles to things of a more sentimental nature, such as digital photos or scanned family documents.

Estate planning needs for those without children

  • 13
  • July
    2014

In many cases, the central focus of estate planning involves creating a structure through which one’s assets can be passed down to their children in as simple a manner as possible. For single people or couples in New Jersey without children, estate planning can take a drastically different form. In such instances, the focus often shifts away from the allocation of assets and toward the assignation of responsibilities in the event that an individual becomes unable to make his or her own financial or medical decisions.

For those without children, there are several roles that need to be filled. Instead of placing all of the responsibilities onto one person, many choose to assemble a team of individuals who can fulfill these roles. In this way, no one person is likely to become overwhelmed, and each party can turn to the others for support if and when needed.

Poor planning lands Lou Reed's estate in probate process

  • 11
  • July
    2014

Many New Jersey readers are likely familiar with the life and artistic work of singer and guitarist Lou Reed. Once the frontman for The Velvet Underground, Reed had a long and prolific musical career that amassed a significant fortune. His death in 2013 and his questionable estate-planning choices have opened up the musician’s financial affairs for the world to see. Hopefully, a glimpse into the estate as it moves through probate will teach others of the importance of creating a solid estate plan, no matter what their level of personal wealth.

Reed drafted a 34-page will to guide the distribution of his assets. However, he failed to create a revocable living trust, which would have provided far better guidance for his heirs and eliminated the need for the estate to go through the probate process. Because there was no such trust in place, the details of his financial affairs are now available as public knowledge. The press has reported most of the details of what the musician earned and how those assets are set to be distributed. Reed’s widow and sister are designated as the primary heirs.

Designating guardians within a simple estate plan

  • 06
  • July
    2014

For New Jersey parents, one of the most pressing needs when creating an estate plan is the process of designating a guardian who would be entrusted with the care of minor children in the event of the death of the parents. This is a serious decision, one that many parents fail to contemplate because they are fearful of considering their own mortality. At the end of the day, however, many children have suffered when their parents failed to complete this important part of even a simple estate plan.

The first step involves selecting the individual or individuals who would be best suited to take over a parental role. There are a number of considerations involved in this decision. Some parents want their children to be raised within the same family, and will select relatives to provide their care. Others are close with family friends and feel that those individuals can provide the best possible home for their kids, if the need should arise.

Treat estate planning as an emergency situation

  • 04
  • July
    2014

When many New Jersey residents think about drafting estate planning documents, they believe that the perfect time to do so is at some vague point in the future. This is an easy task to postpone, for a variety of reasons. However, failing to create a comprehensive estate planning package can create an urgent situation. One of the best ways to approach this need is as if it was an emergency scenario.

In an emergency, tasks are handled immediately, without undue consideration of all available options. Choices are made based upon the most urgent of needs, and a forward momentum is established. Estate planning can be undertaken in the same manner, and this tactic can be very effective for individuals who have not been able to gain the motivation to draft these documents in the past.

Estate planning especially essential for women in New Jersey

  • 29
  • June
    2014

Estate planning is critical for people of all ages and both sexes who want to ensure that they themselves are taken care of if their spouses and other family members die before they do. It also ensures that their offspring are provided for if they die. Estate planning is especially important for women in New Jersey. Here are a few tips for how women can create estate plans that will work best for them and their families.

Women usually have longer lifespans than men, yet they often don’t plan for what will occur when their spouses or other relatives die. More than 30 percent of females who are at least 66 years old are widows; the corresponding figure for men is just 12 percent. Women, therefore, would be wise to address in their estate plans who will take charge of their financial and medical decisions if they find themselves unable to handle this business themselves.

When to review New Jersey estate planning needs

  • 27
  • June
    2014

Once a New Jersey resident has completed the estate planning process, a sense of relief often follows. It is a great feeling to know that one’s final wishes have been outlined in a legal format, and that those who will eventually be left behind will have a road map for how to move ahead. However, it is important to understand that estate planning is a long-term process, and that one’s existing paperwork should be periodically reviewed to ensure that it remains in line with their plans and wishes.

One aspect of estate planning that could necessitate a change of plans involves changes to existing tax law. Periodically, laws regarding trusts and other estate planning vehicles will change. A quick review will ensure that the choices outlined within one’s plan are still relevant and within the bounds of updated tax law.