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New Jersey Estate Planning Blog

A longer life means a shift in estate planning

  • 28
  • August
    2015

Americans are currently living longer than ever before thanks to revolutions in healthcare and medical technology. Researchers estimate that the average lifespan is now nearly twelve years longer than it was in the 1940s. As a result, the estate planning approach taken in decades past is no longer valid for many New Jersey residents.

Individuals should take a second look at their existing retirement and estate plans and begin to think about these two areas as a combined set of interests. Living longer means that the savings set aside for retirement may have to stretch for many more years than in previous generations. Many people will continue to work far into what is considered to be a standard retirement age.

How to select an estate planning attorney

  • 26
  • August
    2015

Choosing a legal professional to guide the process of creating a comprehensive estate plan is an important task. The individual who is trusted with this role will have a great deal of impact on the finished product, and New Jersey residents should take the time and effort needed to find the best possible estate planning fit. As with any other professional, one of the best ways to search for a good match is to ask for referrals.

That process should begin with reaching out to any attorneys with which one already has a connection. The professionals who helped with a divorce, business start-up, lawsuit or other matter will have a network of trusted attorneys in other areas of practice to draw from when making referrals. Often, a quick phone call or email can yield a short list of local attorneys who devote their law practice to estate planning.

Why young people need to consider estate planning

  • 22
  • August
    2015

Many In New Jersey are aware of the tragic death of Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston and her former husband, Bobby Brown. Bobbi Kristina was in a comatose state for six months after being found face-down within a bathtub in her home. Her family has gone through a very bitter and public fight concerning her care, as she did not have the proper estate planning documents in place that would clarify those matters.

No one wants to consider the loss of a loved one, especially in regard to young people who are just getting started in their lives. However, it is important to acknowledge that accidents can happen and that the incapacitation of a young person is always a possibility. The best way to ensure that the proper level of care is achieved in such a case is to draft comprehensive health care directives and make those documents available to the proper parties.

Procrastination a serious obstacle within estate planning

  • 20
  • August
    2015

Few New Jersey readers are completely free from the dangers of procrastination. It is normal for an individual to postpone tasks that he or she feels are onerous, unnecessary or simply undesirable. For many of us, the act of procrastination is elevated to something of an art form, and an elaborate system of excuses are made for avoiding unpleasant responsibilities. That said, not every act of procrastination carries the same weight. For example, failing to clear out one's email inbox does not carry the same weight as putting off estate planning.

For many, psychological barriers impede the estate planning process. We simply do not want to consider the reality of our own eventual demise, which is normal. However, taking this approach ignores the simple fact that the bulk of estate planning efforts are made not for ourselves, but for the loved ones that we will eventually leave behind. Failing to complete the estate planning process can be viewed as a failure to take care of the needs of loved ones.

A brief yearly estate planning checklist

  • 15
  • August
    2015

Virtually all New Jersey residents are aware that having a clearly drafted estate plan is key to achieving the goal of a smooth transfer of assets at the time of one's death. That said, few people are aware that estate planning is not a to-do item that is completed and then forgotten about. It is important to give one's plan a periodic review, and the following items should be considered annually to ensure that the plan still serves the intended purpose.

First, individuals should consider whether they have acquired any real property in the prior year. This is especially important if one is making use of a trust and needs to fund that trust with all significant items of value. Including new real property acquisitions is important and is often overlooked.

The role of executor within the estate planning process

  • 13
  • August
    2015

Creating a properly drafted will is an important part of ensuring that one's assets are distributed to the proper heirs when the time comes. Another aspect of estate planning involves determining who should be appointed as the executor of one's will. This is an important choice, and one that can make a world of difference in the eventual outcome of a New Jersey resident's estate planning efforts.

The individual named as executor will be tasked with filing the will in probate court, which is the official beginning of the probate process. This filing must be made in a timely manner, or the estate can be treated as though the deceased party did not draft a will at all. The executor is also responsible for guiding the process of distributing assets to the proper parties, which is essential to meeting the wishes of the deceased.

Is do-it-yourself estate planning a cost-saving win?

  • 08
  • August
    2015

In today's economy, New Jersey residents are looking for the best possible value in all areas of their lives. Whether it is clipping coupons or shopping for the most fuel-efficient vehicle, people want to get the most for their money, and save in every area possible. That said, there are certain areas in which a do-it-yourself approach is not in one's best interests and can actually end up costing more than was saved. Estate planning is a good example and is a need that is best served by a professional touch.

In order to create the best possible estate plan, an attorney does more than simply draft the necessary paperwork and have his or her client sign on the dotted line. An experienced estate planning attorney also listens to the needs and goals of the client and structures a comprehensive approach that works to meet those stated goals. This requires an understanding of tax ramifications, state law, proper legal drafting skills and a range of other talents. To expect a layperson to possess those same levels of skill is simply unrealistic.

Addressing lesser possessions within estate planning

  • 06
  • August
    2015

When most New Jersey residents are working on their estate plans, they focus on the manner in which sizeable assets will be distributed among their chosen heirs. Wills usually refer to real estate, vehicles, investments and other items of significant value. For many, however, outlining the inheritance of less valuable items is also an important consideration. With the proper degree of estate planning effort, it is possible to structure a clear and smooth transfer of these lesser items.

A common example lies in household goods that an individual wishes to leave to a friend or family member. Listing these lesser items within one's will is tedious and typically results in a final document that is cumbersome. On the other hand, leaving no guidance as to how such items are to be distributed can lead to confusion and contention among those left behind. A solution lies in drafting a separate document that can be used as an addendum to one's will, or simply included within the body of estate planning paperwork.

Facebook offers new estate planning tool

  • 01
  • August
    2015

More and more New Jersey residents are using social media to stay connected to friends and family, and to make new connections with others who share similar interests. Among social media, Facebook remains one of the most popular choices. For some, an event has not truly happened until the details and accompanying photos are posted on Facebook. Over time, the profile grows, and can become a significant digital asset. Until recently, users had few options when it came to including Facebook within estate planning.

The company took a very hard line when it came to allowing others to access the Facebook profile of a user who had passed away. When Facebook was notified of a death, the only two options available to family members were to have the account marked as being "memorialized" or deleted entirely. This approach is understandable, as allowing unauthorized individuals to access the account and make changes could lead to a distortion of the online profile that a user had worked hard to create and maintain.

The benefit of having a simple estate plan checklist

  • 30
  • July
    2015

Creating a comprehensive and effective estate plan is greatly aided by using a checklist. Even a simple estate plan is comprised of a number of different documents. While each New Jersey family will have a unique set of estate planning needs, there are a number of tools that are commonly used. Understanding these tools and their benefits can make it easier to create a customized solution.

A will is the base of many estate plans, and for good reason. A will is the document that outlines an individual's wishes. The specifics can include a list of heirs and the property that is intended to pass to those individuals, and can name the guardians intended to assume the care of minor children. There are a wide range of inclusions that can be added to a will, and no two wills are ever exactly the same.