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An Effective and Customized Estate Plan Is Crucial to Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family! Find Out How I Can Help!

There is one thing in life that you’ve probably been trying to do, and that you might even really want to do: that's getting a will that’s right for you and all the other documents that are part of an effective estate plan. As an experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyer, I'm here to help. 

Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

These days, with all of the uncertainty in the world, an estate plan is something that everyone should have. This is especially true if you have children (of any age, or even grandchildren). Think about it. Without a will:

  • Who will care for your minor children?
  • Who will manage their money if they inherit your estate?
  • How will you be sure that their needs will be met, like a good education?

Don't Let NJ Courts Decide Who Gets Your Assets or Cares for Your Children!

Without a will, state law will determine who inherits from you, when they get the money, and who manages it until then. Those laws may not (and probably don’t) reflect your wishes! And as I mentioned, you also have no control over who will be in charge of your estate, as the court will appoint someone.

The court will be overseeing how and when your hard-earned legacy gets distributed (including your retirement, your home, your bank accounts, car and more). If that sounds less than perfect to you, then please take a moment to read on.

Not Having an Estate Plan Is Bad Even If You Don't Die!

Even if you don’t pass away, things in life can still happen that can prevent you from attending to important matters in your life. If you are laid up (or worse, not even conscious):

  • Who will pay your bills/handle your finances?
  • Who attends to your other life tasks?
  • Who will make medical decisions and work with doctors on your care?
  • Who will take care of your minor children?

You see, without a well-drafted and customized Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Advance Healthcare Directive, you could be stuck in limbo, and your family and health care professionals could be left without guidance to follow your wishes.

You Don't Want a "Store Bought" Estate Plan

This is not where you want to be! And if I’m right about it, you’re not the kind of person who wants to create their will and related estate planning documents on the internet or with some forms from an office supply store that may or may not even be valid.

Yes, life happens, and it isn’t always pleasant. Sometimes, it throws adversity at you, and you need to be prepared in order to provide properly for yourself and your family.

Don’t get caught unprepared; make sure you have a plan in place. One that will work and that will work to do what you want.

Elements of an Effective New Jersey Estate Plan

An effective estate plan typically includes several key elements that ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, your loved ones are provided for, and your legal and financial matters are handled efficiently in the event of your incapacity or death. Here are the primary components:

  • Will: A legal document that outlines how your assets will be distributed after your death. It can also name guardians for minor children.
  • Trust(s): Trusts can be used to manage your assets during your lifetime and distribute them after your death. They offer more control over asset distribution and can help avoid probate.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This designates someone to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. It can cover paying bills, managing investments, and handling other financial matters.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: This appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • Living Will: Also known as an advance healthcare directive, it specifies your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care if you are unable to communicate these decisions.
  • Beneficiary Designations: These are typically used for life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and some financial accounts, allowing these assets to be transferred directly to the named beneficiaries without going through probate.
  • Guardianship Designations: In the event that both parents die before a child reaches adulthood, this specifies the preferred guardians for minor children

Regular Review of Your New Jersey Estate Plan Is Essential 

An estate plan should be reviewed regularly and updated as needed. Here are some times when you should schedule a professional review with a New Jersey estate planning lawyer:

  • Marriage or Divorce: Significant changes in your marital status should prompt a review of your estate plan, including beneficiary designations, executors, and powers of attorney.
  • Birth or Adoption of a Child: The addition of a new family member often requires adjustments to your will, trusts, and guardian designations.
  • Death of a Spouse or Beneficiary: If a spouse, beneficiary, or executor named in your estate plan passes away, you will need to make necessary changes.
  • Significant Change in Assets: Acquiring or losing significant assets (such as buying a home, receiving an inheritance, or experiencing substantial changes in investment values) can impact your estate plan.
  • Change in Tax Laws: Estate planning strategies often depend on existing tax laws. Changes in federal or New Jersey state tax laws may require adjustments to your estate plan.
  • Relocation to Another State: Moving to a different state can necessitate changes to your estate plan, as estate planning laws vary by state.
  • Children Reaching Adulthood: The needs and roles of adult children in your estate plan might be different from when they were minors.
  • Changes in Health: A significant change in your or a family member's health could necessitate changes to healthcare directives or long-term care planning.
  • Business Changes: If you own a business, changes such as the sale of the business, acquisition of new partners, or succession planning can impact your estate plan.
  • Lapse of Time: Even if none of the above changes occur, it's a good practice to review your estate plan every few years to ensure that it still aligns with your current wishes and circumstances.
Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.