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New Jersey Estate Planning Blog

Understanding various estate planning tools

  • 27
  • September
    2014

For many New Jersey residents, the process of putting together a set of estate documents is a source of stress. This is largely due to the sheer volume of available choices. When confronted by the range of options, many feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin. However, everyone should rest assured that there is a combination of estate planning documents that can meet any need.

Many people begin with a simple will, which can address the designation of heirs and the assets that they will receive. Moving beyond a will, some individuals will choose to make use of various trusts to pass their wealth on to their chosen heirs. A trust has the advantage of keeping one's estate out of probate, which saves money, time and allows the family to keep the details of the estate private.

Common estate planning errors to avoid

  • 25
  • September
    2014

When considering their estate planning needs, many New Jersey residents make a number of common errors. Perhaps the most central of these is a reluctance to turn one's attention to matters that center on an individual's demise. By failing to address estate planning issues, however, individuals are by default making matters far more complicated for those they love. The best way to ensure that one's wishes are carried out upon his or her death is to clearly outline those wishes within the proper legal documents.

When thinking about various estate planning tools, a great number of people make the false assumption that estate planning is only for the rich and famous. In reality, however, these tools are beneficial to people from all walks of life. While individuals with a more modest set of assets may have a more simplified estate plan than an individual who holds a great deal of wealth, the benefits of estate planning apply to everyone. The ability to avoid probate, save on taxes and facilitate a smooth transfer of assets to one's heirs are universally heralded as positives.

Including pets within estate planning

  • 19
  • September
    2014

Many in New Jersey were saddened at the recent death of comedian Joan Rivers, whose entertainment career lasted more than 50 years and touched a great many Americans. The 81-year-old was also a dedicated mother and grandmother, and took the proper estate planning steps to ensure that her estate would pass to those she loved. Rivers also make provisions within her estate for the care of her pets, and many readers may be surprised to learn that doing so is not a practice reserved only for the rich and famous.

At the time of her death, Rivers owned four dogs that lived in two of her residences. According to those close to the entertainer, those pets were treated as beloved family members, and there was no surprise when Rivers included provisions for their care within her larger estate plan. By leaving money within a pet care trust, it is possible to ensure that pets are well cared for, even after the owner's death.

Taking time now for estate planning can reduce stress later

  • 16
  • September
    2014

Many in New Jersey may not want to think about end-of-life matters, but this is a subject area that deserves some attention. Estate planning, whether done as a young adult or later in life, can help ensure final wishes are made known and even reduce stress and frustrations for loved ones. While the estate planning process can seem overwhelming at first, taking the time complete it now will only prove worthwhile in the long-run.

No two lives or family situations are exactly the same; as such, estate plans can be written to suit all the details specific to an individual's life. Even relatively simple estate plans have their own complexities which may include providing instructions for financial affairs, the need for tax minimization strategies, documenting health care directives or establishing durable powers of attorney. A variety of estate planning services are available to ensure all your specific needs are met.

Estate planning decisions: Will or trust?

  • 11
  • September
    2014

When faced with a set of choices, many in New Jersey look for a clear path toward making the best possible decision. In terms of estate planning, selecting a course of action may seem like a challenge. In reality, however, there is almost always clear indicators that support one path over another. Once those decisions have been made, individuals are free to move forward with structuring the estate plan that best suits their unique needs.

For example, one of the primary choices facing anyone who sets out to create an estate plan is simple. Should the plan be based around a will or one or more trusts? Each choice had advantages and disadvantages, making it important to understand how either option will serve one's interests.

Special topics in estate planning: Military honors

  • 09
  • September
    2014

When many New Jersey residents consider the need to create a solid estate plan, the topic revolves around the manner in which assets are to be distributed among the loved ones left behind. While this is an important focus within estate planning, there are many other issues that can be made easier by having a solid plan in place. Outlining one's wishes is only part of the process; individuals must also give their loved ones the tools they need to follow through on those instructions.

Take, for example, a member of the United States Armed Forces who wishes to have his or her service integrated into their final arrangements. A range of options exists, including having a military presence at the funeral or being interred within a cemetery reserved for servicemembers. While these are admirable goals, those left behind may have little knowledge of what it takes to actually bring those ideas to fruition.

When parents and children are estranged: Estate planning tips

  • 05
  • September
    2014

It is an unfortunate reality that many New Jersey family members have bonds that are threatened or damaged over the course of time. Often, the relationship between parent and child becomes strained over decisions made by the child that are unacceptable to the parent. An example would be drug or alcohol abuse with no real effort to end the destructive behavior. Others grow apart based on a child's choice to pursue an illegal or immoral lifestyle. Regardless of the reasons for an estrangement, serious rifts between parents and children create a unique estate planning need.

Parents who choose to disinherit a child have a number of options for reaching that goal. It is possible to simply leave a child out of any existing will or trusts. However, this can lead to a great deal of strife and contention between the estranged child and any other children who were included in the will. A legal challenge to the estate plan can also cause a significant reduction in overall inheritance levels, as legal fees will be incurred on all sides.

Estate tax and inheritance tax subject of New Jersey law proposal

  • 02
  • September
    2014

When it comes to estate planning, one of the most important aspects which most people pay attention to is avoiding unnecessary tax liabilities. This has been an especially important concern for many people in New Jersey, since it is one of only two states in which people are required to pay the estate tax as well as the inheritance tax. However, some state lawmakers are now looking to change this situation.

The inheritance tax requires beneficiaries other than a decedent’s spouse, children, parents or grandparents to pay taxes if their inheritance exceeds $25,000. Lawmakers are arguing that this is discriminatory and is an unfair burden on beneficiaries who are willed assets from uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins or other relatives. Even those who inherit assets from friends will have to pay the inheritance tax. However, lawmakers are now looking to propose legislation which would repeal the inheritance tax in New Jersey.

Estate planning solutions for special assets

  • 31
  • August
    2014

The basic components of a solid estate plan have been covered in great detail, both here and within the larger media. However, many New Jersey residents are uncertain how to address assets that are of an unusual or special nature within their larger estate planning approach. The purpose of this article is to assure readers that there is an estate planning tool that can be used to handle all types of assets, even those that fall outside the bounds of what would be considered to be a “traditional” estate plan.

An example would be a business in which a specific form of licensure or training is required in order to allow the business to continue to operate after the owner’s death. For example, a doctor who owns a small practice would need to designate a special trustee or administrator who holds the requirements needed to continue to run the business after the owner’s death. The duties and compensation associated with that role can be clearly laid out within the proper documents, so that there is no confusion as to how the business should be handled after a death takes place.

How small estates can reap big benefits by avoiding probate

  • 29
  • August
    2014

One of the most common objections that New Jersey attorneys hear in regard to creating an estate plan involves the belief that an individual or family with only a moderate or modest level of wealth has no need to create such a plan. This, however, is far from true. Viewed from a different perspective, those with less modest financial holdings have an even greater need to protect those assets at the time of their death. Avoiding probate is key to preserving assets, and having more to pass on to loved ones.

The reason that estate planning is so important to those with a modest volume of assets boils down to simple math. Those who have less to pass on can not afford to pay out significant taxes, fees and other costs associated with settling an estate. With the proper estate planning, individuals can preserve a greater percentage of their accumulated wealth, which is a good idea no matter how many assets are at play.

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