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New Jersey Estate Planning Blog

The role of personal letters within estate planning

  • 18
  • December
    2014

For most New Jersey residents, the topic of planning one's estate brings to mind a stack of legal documents and directives, and a body of paperwork intended to preserve assets and pass accumulated wealth down to those left behind. While there is no denial that properly drafted estate planning documents form the base, there is another type of writing that individuals should consider adding to the mix. Leaving behind personal letters can make the grieving process much easier for loved ones, and it can also guide them in understanding matters that are beyond the scope of wills and trusts.

For example, each of us holds far more personal possessions than can be addressed within a simple will. These items may hold relatively little financial value, but they can be imbued with deep personal meaning. Taking the time to write a letter or note to the intended recipients of such items can be a very meaningful gesture.

Estate taxes not the only estate planning concern

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  • December
    2014

Most New Jersey residents are aware that their accumulated wealth will not be subject to estate taxes unless a very high volume of assets has been reached. The exact figure beyond which an estate is subject to taxation currently sits at $5,340,000. For married couples, that number can be extended to $10,680,000 with the proper level of planning. However, even individuals and families with a far lower net worth should consider creating an estate planning package that serves to protect their wealth from other forms of loss.

For example, state law can also affect how one's assets are taxed upon death or at the time of an inheritance. Proper estate planning efforts can help ensure that the highest possible volume of wealth is passed on to the intended heirs. There are a great many tools and tactics that can be put to use to make the transfer of wealth simple and free of undue financial loss.

Asset protection requires proper funding of trusts

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  • December
    2014

Taking a proactive approach to estate planning is a great way to get started. Those in New Jersey who are able to address these matters far in advance of their eventual implementation are at an advantage, as last-minute planning often yields poor results. However, in order to harness the full potential of asset protection tools such as trusts, those vehicles must be properly funded.

A revocable trust is an especially flexible asset protection tool, when correctly implemented. In order to reap the full benefits of such a trust, individuals must carefully determine what goals they are trying to achieve from the onset. For many, the savings associated with placing assets in a revocable trust is the priority. Others focus on the ability to keep their financial matters private after they have passed. For many, however, the primary value of a revocable trust is the ability to distribute one's accumulated wealth in whatever way desired.

Single people can and should create a simple estate plan

  • 10
  • December
    2014

When discussing estate-planning needs, a great deal of focus is placed on preserving assets and dictating the manner in which one's accumulated wealth will pass on to intended heirs. Often, we discuss these matters in terms of family connections, spouses and children shared within the same family unit. Single New Jersey residents may feel as if their own circumstances do not merit even a simple estate plan. This, however, is a misconception.

Should a single person die without a will, the laws of the state would dictate how their assets are to be divided. The result usually follows lines of genetic connection; any children would be first in line, followed by parents, siblings and more distant relatives. However, anyone who falls outside of this basic framework would be excluded, such as a partner, close friends or others. In cases in which no relatives can be found, those assets will eventually pass to the state itself.

The hazards of last minute estate planning

  • 06
  • December
    2014

Many New Jersey residents postpone addressing their estate planning needs. For some, procrastinating will result in a failure to chart out one's wishes in time, and loved ones will be left to wade through the probate process with little concrete guidance as to what their lost family member would want. Some people, however, will have their estate planning needs placed under a spotlight when they learn of a terminal illness.

When an individual is aware that his or her time is limited, it can be difficult to focus on the sudden needs that arise. This is especially true in cases in which a high level of medical care is required. Having to divide one's attention between acute medical needs, spending time with loved ones and structuring an estate plan is simply overwhelming. In addition, making decisions while under this level of stress does not always yield a true representation of one's intentions.

Estate planning can help protect one's possessions, family

  • 04
  • December
    2014

Thinking about death is one thing most people likely prefer not to do, especially during the holidays. However, failing to plan for one's death may mean that one's wishes aren't upheld in the event of one's death in New Jersey. Estate planning is critical, no matter the size of one's estate.

The purpose of an estate plan is to allow people to make sure that their property will be passed down to the individuals they wish to get this property. In addition, an estate plan makes sure that this property goes to the right beneficiaries in the specific way one prefers it to go and when one prefers it to go. By planning ahead, it's possible to save money on taxes and court costs.

Think control isn't necessary for asset protection? Think again

  • 01
  • December
    2014

Drawing up a will or creating a trust can initially feel like passing on the responsibility of your things to other people. Grandma's old piano might be intended for your granddaughter, the china cabinet for your son and a charitable trust for your favorite New Jersey non-profit. However, much of estate planning isn't about losing control; it's about maintaining control and ensuring proper asset protection.

Trusts are an excellent example of how much control people can still maintain over an estate plan. Although a trustee must be named, it is not necessary for an individual to name themselves. The creator of the trust is still technically the owner and can still make the decisions, including getting rid of one trustee in favor of another who may be more amicable to work with.

Revocable trusts can be key to ensuring asset protection

  • 29
  • November
    2014

When creating an estate plan, many New Jersey residents are looking for a degree of flexibility. This is an important consideration, especially when the needs of various heirs are not the same. Having the ability to customize an estate plan to provide both asset protection and address the varying needs of one's heirs is possible through the use of trusts.

Trusts are, at the most base level, one of the most flexible estate planning tools available. A trustee is named, and this is the individual who will be given the authority to decide when to issue payments to the beneficiaries of the trust. The guidelines for making these decisions can be clearly spelled out within the document. In fact, leaving clear instructions is the best way to make sure that one's wishes are carried out as desired.

Celebrity examples of estate planning mistakes

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  • November
    2014

In virtually any significant social matter, the mistakes of others can present an opportunity to those who are willing to learn from those errors. Such is the case with celebrity estate planning missteps, which are often widely reported in the media. New Jersey residents who follow these matters can learn a great deal about how not to construct their own estate plans, and can use that knowledge to avoid a similar outcome.

Take, for example, the contention and strife that followed the death of Michael Crichton. The successful author made millions of dollars from his popular novels and their movie rights. However, a failure to update his estate plan left his family in a series of bitter battles after his unexpected death.

Document storage an important part of estate planning

  • 18
  • November
    2014

When New Jersey residents go through the process of planning their eventual estate, it is important to remember that these directives can only be put into place if the guiding documentation is available to those who need to take action in the matter. Simply creating these estate planning documents and then stuffing them into a file box is not the best course of action. Individuals must take the proper steps to ensure that their wishes can be carried out in the manner of their choosing.

In regard to a will, the original document must be presented in order to begin the probate process. If the family is unable to present this copy, it may be impossible to carry out the wishes of the deceased. In some cases, a copy or duplicate can be produced, but this can be a difficult process, especially if there is any form of contest to the will as it stands.