couple meeting with a New Jersey estate planning attorney

Do I need an estate plan if I am not wealthy?

There is a common misconception that estate plans are solely for those who have a huge amount of wealth. Contrary to that opinion, anyone can benefit from having a legally valid and clearly worded estate plan in place. There is no telling when our time will come, so having an estate plan can ensure your family’s future is safe and your legacy is upheld. It can also reflect your wishes for lifesaving medical care, end-of-life wishes, and your eventual funeral and burial.

No matter your financial circumstances, a New Jersey estate planning attorney from Van Dyck Law Group can explain the elements of an estate plan and help you determine which are suitable for your circumstances. They will guide you through the entire process and help you amend the plan as the years pass and your plans change.

Schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney from our firm today by calling (609) 293-2562 or using our form to contact us online.

The Importance of an Estate Plan

An estate plan is something that you don’t need — until you suddenly do. Sometimes, by then, it’s too late, and you’re unable to provide the input and guidance that would have been appreciated greatly by those closest to you.

Estate planning allows you to plan ahead and prepare for the unexpected. While you are not legally required to write a will or any other type of estate plan document, doing so ensures your property can remain with the person or persons you choose. Without a will, New Jersey will distribute your property according to the laws of intestate succession.

Regardless of your financial situation, an estate plan can help you assess the potential impact of debts and taxes that will remain after you die. While you may not need to establish a trust, you can take steps to file an estate plan that helps your family manage the inheritance taxes and administrative costs of your estate. Having an estate plan can also make bringing your estate probate as painless as possible. Probate can be costly and lengthy for a family, so having a will in place can reduce that stress — allow your family to grieve properly and celebrate your memory without spending months or even years in court.

An estate plan can also lay out clear funeral and burial instructions, provide instruction on property distribution, and set aside money for taxes, so cherished property does not have to be liquidated to pay off remaining debts.

Writing a Valid Will in New Jersey

If nothing else, your estate plan should include a will. However, it is important to follow state laws carefully, as failing to do so could invalidate your will. Your attorney will explain what you need to do to ensure your documents are legally valid. The process involves the following:

  • The filing adult must be legally competent. To be lawfully deemed competent in New Jersey, you must understand what a will does and why you would write one. You must also be aware of what property you own, where it is located, and who you intend to leave it to after passing. 
  • Witnesses are required at signing. When you work with an estate planning attorney, you will most likely file a typed will. In New Jersey, typed wills must include the filer’s signature, as well as signatures from two other people who bore witness to the signing or approve of the will. Note that handwritten wills are recognized in New Jersey so long as someone can verify the handwriting.
  • Notarizing is not required but recommended. New Jersey does not require notarization to make wills legal. However, there are a number of benefits to having your documents notarized. When a notary signs a will, the individual in charge of your estate after your death will not need to take additional action to prove it is valid. A notarized will can also speed up the probate process.
  • Applicants have the option to enter the state’s will registry. New Jersey gives residents the opportunity to enter their wills in a will registry. There is a small fee to file your will; however, doing so can make it easier to find and authenticate after you pass away. It is important to note that your will is still legally valid if you opt-out of the registry.

Ensuring your will is legal and accurate helps to avoid disputes or litigation after passing away. Instead of family and friends arguing over what you may have wanted, they will have clear, legally binding guidance.

Planning for the Possibility of Medical Incapacitation

In addition to writing a will, it is also essential to plan ahead for the possibility of medical incapacitation. In New Jersey, a person’s spouse or next of kin is not automatically the decision-maker when they are medically incapacitated. With proper documentation, you can grant powers of attorney to your spouse or family members.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in Jersey is a type of Advance Directive. An advance directive is a legal document that outlines how a person wants their medical care handled if they can no longer communicate. With a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you can identify the person you wish to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Another type of advanced directive is known as a living will. A living will informs your doctor what type of medical care and intervention you do or do not want in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal condition or become permanently unconscious. Examples include feeding tubes, intubation, and do not resuscitate orders. You have the legal right to decline treatment that prolongs the process of dying.

Providing Peace of Mind for New Jersey Residents

No matter your financial situation, owned property, or other assets, an estate plan can ensure you and your family members are aware of what should happen in the event you pass away. At the Van Dyck Law Group, we recognize how sensitive estate planning can be, so we take care to provide the utmost professional planning services possible.

An estate plan allows you to control your future and provides your loved ones with the support and guidance they need to abide by your wishes. Learn more about what estate planning involves when you call (609) 293-2562 or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

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Van Dyck Law Group Client Reviews

“ Fiona and her team made a complicated and potentially difficult process of planning for the inevitable an easy, pleasant and uncomplicated experience. Amazing!”

– Anonymous survey 2

“ The staff was very professional, courteous, and responsive. The process of updating and restating our trusts was less arduous than anticipated. Every question was clearly explained and clarified and aimed at our level of understanding. This was an A+ service.”

– David & Diane of New Providence, NJ

“ Fiona is professional and highly knowledgeable, but what sets her apart is her ability to explain complex legal details in an easy to understand manner. She is friendly and patiently answered our many questions thoroughly. Her staff is equally friendly and responsive. And they accomplished all of this under virtual conditions! Very pleased with our experience.”

– James and Sheri H.- Hopewell, NJ

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