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New Jersey Estate Planning Blog

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.

Improper estate planning can lead to difficulties for family

  • 23
  • June
    2014

One thing people in New Jersey can’t control in life is death. It often comes when people least expect it. If that person hasn’t engaged in appropriate estate planning, the surviving family members may be at a disadvantage in handling the estate. If there is not even a simple will, the assets may not be distributed according to the actual wishes of the individual who died.

Estate planning addresses these issues. Improper planning can result in ongoing problems for surviving family members and even lead to disputes over specific items of property. Some essential documents to include in an estate plan are a will and/or trust, a durable power of attorney and a medical directive.

Estate planning protects oneself and one's family in New Jersey

  • 21
  • June
    2014

People usually like to spend their day thinking about enjoyable things, such as eating, doing fun activities or spending time with family. Pondering subjects such as taxes, incapacity and death is not preferred typically, which is why some people in New Jersey may avoid estate planning. However, having a strong estate plan is essential for taking care of a number of important issues, including what will become of any assets.

It helps to begin by putting together a statement that lists all assets. Then, a person can start creating a will, providing instructions regarding how to distribute the assets to beneficiaries such as family members after death. An executor is appointed to administer the estate and distribute these assets under the guidance of a probate court. In addition, if a person has minor children, the will can be used to designate a guardian to ensure their health and well-being is cared for.

Estate planning is a gift to those who are left behind

  • 15
  • June
    2014

Many articles focus on the various needs that individuals in New Jersey have in regard to planning their final financial or health matters. These needs are undeniably important, but there is another way to view estate planning, one that has nothing to do with the needs of the individual who begins and completes that process. Creating a clear and comprehensive estate plan is a gift that one gives to their loved ones, and can help ease what will otherwise be a difficult and emotionally stressful time.

Take, for example, the creation of an advance directive. These documents outline what type of treatment an individual would like to receive in the event of an incapacitating injury or illness. That is important for the person who might encounter a medical emergency, but consider how such a directive can assist those who will be tasked with making these medical decisions. Immediately after an emergency, loved ones will be overcome with fear and stress, and it is at that time that they will be asked a series of incredibly difficult questions by medical personnel. Having an advance directive gives them a roadmap for the type of care that a loved one would want, and takes a great deal of stress away from the decision-making process.

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