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What You Need To Know About Estate Planning In New Jersey

Estate planning is the process of making an advanced plan for disability and to devise who will receive your property when you pass away. A solid estate plan can protect your legacy and your family. With the help of a compassionate New Jersey estate planning lawyer, you can create a customized plan that protects what you have worked your whole life to achieve. Unfortunately, many people fail to properly plan for the future. According to a recent AARP survey, six out of every ten adults do not have a will or trust in place. Many people are afraid to confront their mortality and simply delay this task. However, creating your estate plan ensures that things are handled according to your terms. Estate planning empowers people and provides them with great peace of mind. Below, our dedicated estate planning attorneys discuss everything you need to know about the estate planning process.

Estate Planning Checklist

A solid estate plan may consist of a variety of estate planning documents that are designed to protect your interests. Depending on your individual needs, your estate plan may consist of the following:

  • Will – A last will and testament is the cornerstone of many estate plans. This important documents states who will inherit your property after your passing. It also names a guardian for your minor children and appoints an executor who will ensure the instructions in your will are carried out.
  • Trust – A trust allows you or another trusted person to manage your property at your lifetime. You may include specific and detailed instructions on the management that are followed after your passing. There are a variety of trusts that an estate planning lawyer can create to target your specific needs, such as planning for Medicaid, transferring property to grandchildren, providing for a disabled child, donating funds to charity or protecting trust funds with a spendthrift provision. Our knowledgeable estate planning lawyers can discuss the most appropriate types of trusts for your specific situation.
  • Durable power of attorney – With a durable power of attorney, you can appoint a trusted person to manage your financial affairs in case you become incapacitated. This person can pay your bills, manage your property and even run your business, depending on whether you grant your agent broad or limited powers. Having this critical estate planning strategy in place can avoid the expensive process of having a guardian appointed to protect you and your property.
  • Living will – Your living will provides instructions regarding your end-of-life care, such as whether you wish to receive life-saving treatment. You can also appoint a medical proxy, who is someone you name to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you are unable to communicate these decisions to your healthcare provider.
  • Long-term care plan – Many people must rely on receiving nursing home or long-term care at some point in the future. Long-term care insurance can provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that you have this need taken care of in case you are ever in this situation. For others, the focus may be more on ensuring that they will be able to qualify for Medicaid if the time comes. Our innovative estate planning attorneys can devise a long-term plan that focuses on Medicaid planning so that you can qualify for services when the time comes.
  • Non-probate transfers – A key goal for many estate planning clients is to avoid the probate process or decrease the value of property that must go through probate. There are many effective ways to transfer property outside the probate process. For example, insurance policies and retirement accounts have a beneficiary designation that directs who will receive the account proceeds when you pass. You can transfer stocks and bonds through a transfer on death form. Likewise, you can transfer funds from your bank accounts with a payable on death form. You can also transfer real property outside probate if you are joint tenants with the right of survivorship with another owner.

Our experienced team of estate planning attorneys will work closely with you to devise a plan that addresses all of your estate planning needs.

Important Information on Estate Planning Law

It is important that clients know that if they do not have an estate plan or do not take proactive steps to name decision makers in their life, the state has a plan for them. For example, if a person dies without a trust or will, any property that is part of his or her probate estate is subject to division, based on New Jersey’s intestate laws. While you may want your spouse and children from a previous marriage to split your property equally, state law allows your spouse to inherit the first 25% of your property up to $200,000 and half of the remaining balance while your children inherit the remainder. You may have had a falling out with your parents, but if you have no spouse or children, they are next in line to inherit. If you don’t have any children but your parents and your spouse survive you, your parents will have a right to inherit part of your property. The only way to avoid these unwanted outcomes is to have an estate plan drafted for you that communicates your wishes.

There are also other important default laws that apply if you do not proactively plan. For example, if you do not name an executor, the court will appoint an administrator and this person will be required to post a bond. If you do not have a healthcare proxy, the healthcare organization can appoint a surrogate to make decisions for you.

Updating Your Estate Plan

An estate plan should be made up of fluid documents that can change over time. Your will can also contain several contingencies, like what happens in case of divorce or death of a beneficiary. However, your estate plan may need to be updated. If any of the following situations occurred, you may need to change your estate plan:

  • You get married
  • You get divorced
  • You want to provide for a disabled family member
  • You want to disinherit someone
  • You moved to another state or country
  • The value of your estate has substantially increased
  • A beneficiary has died
  • You purchased property in another state
  • You have changed your mind about who you want to provide your assets to
  • You have changed your mind about whom to name as your executor, healthcare proxy, trustee or in another official capacity

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

An estate planning lawyer uses his or her knowledge of estate planning law to tailor an estate plan that addresses your needs. Estate planning is a sensitive subject, so it is important to work with a lawyer who will handle your case with compassion. A caring estate planning lawyer will guide you through the process, identify your objectives and patiently explain your options. A solid estate plan will accomplish the following:

  • Organize smooth transitions of assets if you become disabled or after your death
  • Minimize the impact of taxes on your estate
  • Reduce family conflict
  • Prevent family disputes
  • Minimize time in probate court
  • Minimize the value of assets in probate court
  • Distribute your wealth to your children, spouse, loved ones and charities, according to your instructions

An experienced estate planning attorney will also provide you with guidance and describe your options if you are dealing with a complex estate planning issue, such as planning for a disabled child, protecting children from a previous marriage or transitioning business ownership in a family business.

Retaining the services of a qualified New Jersey estate planning attorney is the first step in protecting your legacy and your loved ones.

Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney

When you meet with your estate planning lawyer for the first time, you may want to prepare a list of questions. The estate planning attorney can answer these questions during your initial consultation. These questions will help you get to know the estate planning lawyer better, as well as have a better understanding of your specific needs. Some questions you may wish to include on your list are:

  • Do you focus primarily on estate planning?
  • How long have you practiced estate planning law?
  • What steps do you take to avoid family disputes?
  • What documents should I include in my estate plan?
  • Will my estate be subject to federal or state taxes?
  • How can I minimize taxes on my estate?
  • What steps can I take to protect my estate plan?
  • What does estate planning cost?
  • How do you charge?
  • Do you review existing estate plans and make recommendations for changes?
  • How long will it take to complete my estate plan?
  • Will you send me documents to review?
  • Do you help me fund my trust?
  • Who else will help with my case?
  • What other services do you provide that will help with my estate plan?

When To Start Estate Planning

It is never too early to start estate planning. Unfortunately, too many people put it off until it’s too late. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and estate planning is something that needs to be done while you still have the legal capacity to enter into a contract. Otherwise, if the unexpected happens and you are incapacitated for any reason, decisions about how your affairs are handled or decisions about the medical care you receive will be determined by others. Estate planning is about taking care of the people who matter most in your life.

Why Choose Hoffman & Hoffman

It is never too early to start estate planning. Unfortunately, too many people put it off until it’s too late. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and estate planning is something that needs to be done while you still have the legal capacity to enter into a contract. Otherwise, if the unexpected happens and you are incapacitated for any reason, decisions about how your affairs are handled or decisions about the medical care you receive will be determined by others. Estate planning is about taking care of the people who matter most in your life. They are counting on you and taking care of your estate planning while you still can will ensure that your legacy of loving and caring for them will continue.

The estate planning attorneys at Hoffman & Hoffman have over 40 years of combined experience helping the people of New Jersey and New York with their estate planning to maximize wealth preservation for them and their loved ones.

When you choose Hoffman & Hoffman handle your wills, trusts, and estate planning needs, you can expect professional, competent counsel, and personal attention to make sure that your wishes are fulfilled efficiently and effectively.

To schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys please call 732-264-1956 or submit the form below and someone from our office will contact you to schedule a consultation.

Don't Wait. Contact Us Today.

Don’t put off estate planning any longer. Call our office now and schedule a consultation learn more about how we can help you protect and preserve your assets for the ones you love. Call Now (732) 264-1956.

Note: Completion and submission of the above contact form does not establish the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. We respect your privacy and the information provided will be kept private and Hoffman & Hoffman does not share any provided contact information.

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