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New Jersey Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning during one's younger years

  • 17
  • October

When many New Jersey residents consider estate planning, it is a topic that they believe is geared toward those who are nearing their retirement years. Younger people often fail to recognize the need to create a solid plan that can be used in the event of their passing. This, however, is an error in judgment, one that could cost a family a great deal of time, money and stress in the event that an untimely death should occur. Estate planning is not only relevant for individuals in their 30s and 40s, it is imperative.

The foundation of a good estate plan is a carefully drafted last will and testament. This is the document in which parents can designate the individuals they wish to raise their children in the event that both parents die. It is also the guideline for the distribution of an individual's property and assets. Having a will in place can make a world of difference to those left behind, and it can simplify what is a difficult and emotional process.

Estate tax and college savings accounts

  • 15
  • October

Many New Jersey readers are aware of the tax benefits of establishing and funding a Section 529 college savings account. The money deposited within is allowed to accumulate interest tax-free, and there is no penalty for withdrawing funds to cover the cost of tuition and other college needs for the account's beneficiary. However, there are also estate tax-planning benefits associated with a 529 account, which is a fact often overlooked by many.

Money deposited into a 529 account can reduce one's taxable estate. Such contributions are considered completed gifts, which means that these funds are also allowable as part of one's annual gift tax exclusion. For those who are able to make a lump-sum contribution, the gift tax exclusion can be spread over the course of five years, leading to significant savings.

The benefits of using a living trust in estate planning

  • 10
  • October

Many New Jersey residents find it advantageous to make use of one or more trusts when setting up their estate plans. There are many different types of trusts, all of which have various benefits. In the case of a living trust, individuals are able to place chosen assets into the trust while they are still alive, and can also participate in the management of that trust. For many, the ability to see their trust in action is a big advantage, and makes the estate planning process much easier to accomplish.

For example, an individual who creates a living trust can put the family home within that trust. In addition, investment property and other types of investments can be included. Beneficiaries are named, as well as the person who will be expected to to act as a trustee. This will be the individual who will manage the trust, pay any required taxes and make decisions concerning the maintenance of property held within the trust. If the creator of the trust wishes to manage it on their own, a successor trustee will be named, and that person will take over the trust once the creator dies.

Can a digital app assist with estate planning needs?

  • 08
  • October

Think of virtually any need that a New Jersey resident might have, and there is likely an online application in place to meet that need. With the announcement of a recently released app, estate planning can be added to that list. The company offering the service is known as Estate Assist, and promises to address an estate planning need that many individuals are not even aware exists.

Estate Assist is essentially a digital safe deposit box. Users can upload a list of their online and offline accounts, as well as the user names and passwords associated with each. In this way, one's heirs will have the ability to locate and access these accounts after their loved one has died, an ability that is not always readily available. Currently, when an individual dies, those left behind can encounter a great deal of difficulty gaining access to email, social media accounts and various forms of cloud storage.

Estate planning for future children

  • 05
  • October

When most people consider their estate planning needs, they do so in order to ensure that their loved ones are able to inherit as intended. Over time, the people on that list could change, as new children are born or other loved ones pass away. The best way to ensure that one's wishes are carried out as desired is to periodically review one's estate planning documents. There is another consideration, however, to which many in New Jersey have not given a great deal of thought.

Technology has given us the ability to conceive children without actually being present at the time of conception. By harvesting and storing sperm and eggs, individuals can pass on their genetic material long after the basic components of life have left their body. This ability can even extend beyond the lifespan of one or both of the parents.

Asset protection for the 99 percent of us

  • 03
  • October

When considering how to structure their end-of-life needs, many in New Jersey hold the misconception that they do not have enough wealth to require estate planning services. They feel that asset protection is a concern only for those who sit amongst the wealthiest; the fabled one percent. In reality, however, virtually everyone can benefit from having a solid estate plan in place.

First, let's take a closer look at the word "estate." An estate is not a country home sprawled across multiple acres and featuring a large and imposing house. It is nothing more than the sum total of all assets that an individual has control over. This can include various investments, the equity in one's home, and different types of personal property. No matter how modest an individual's holdings may be, those holdings comprise his or her estate.

Understanding various estate planning tools

  • 27
  • September

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

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

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

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.

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