How can I ensure that my estate plan will be carried out as I want?
Estate plans are crucial for documenting your wishes for what happens once you pass away. The direction provided not only applies to how assets from your estate are distributed, but also to your intended memorial arrangements and certain legal decisions.
How can you ensure your estate plan is carried out? Estate plans, when formed correctly, are legally binding documents, upheld by states of residence. To ensure your estate plan is carried out as you want, it is essential to work with a lawyer who can help you work within state laws while avoiding common mistakes. Wording your estate plan in such a way that is clear and does not contradict other laws or documents is essential, as it can help your family avoid contests or disputes while trying to enact your plan.
If you are looking to form an estate plan or revise your current one, a New Jersey estate planning attorney from Van Dyck Law Group can explain the process and help you decide what should be included based on your circumstances. 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 Functions of an Estate Plan
Nearly everyone can benefit from forming an estate plan. The collection of documents protects your personal property and outlines how you want your assets to be passed down. Assets are not just cash or savings, but also include real estate property, vehicles, collectibles, antiques, and more. With an estate plan, you protect the value of those assets and ensure your family or heirs are aware of your wishes for how they will be distributed.
An estate plan also lets you choose who can make decisions on your behalf. While there is no way to predict what we will face in the future, we can prepare for worst-case scenarios. In the event you are in an accident or experience a medical emergency, your estate plan can highlight who has the power to make decisions for your medical care or finances. You can also use your estate plan to designate guardians for dependents and name your estate administrator (executor).
Estate Governance in New Jersey
In New Jersey, assets are automatically divided among family members, loved ones, friends, etc., in accordance with a person’s will. In the event a person does not have a will, the state probate court decides how to handle the estate and associated assets.
It is crucial to work with an attorney to ensure your intended beneficiaries receive your assets and have the information needed to manage your estate properly. Doing so will ensure you are aware of your rights and options, as well as how New Jersey state laws could impact the estate planning process or delegation.
New Jersey has laws on the following:
- Durable Power of Attorney — Laws regulating the process of making health care and end-of-life decisions on behalf of another person
- Wills — Laws outlining what makes a will legally binding, i.e., witnesses, age of testator, etc.
- Living Wills — Laws establishing how a person can set their preferences for medical and end-of-life care
- Probate — The legal process that occurs after a person dies, regardless of the presence of a valid will
Note that the probate process in New Jersey is handled through counties’ Surrogate Courts. A Surrogate Court distributes estate plan documents and determines the identity of the estate’s administrator. The administrator is then responsible for assembling the assets, paying debts, and distributing anything remaining.
Tips for a Successful Estate Plan
Every estate plan is unique to the person’s situation. Consider the following tips to ensure your estate plan meets all of your needs and can be carried out to its full extent.
Know Who to Work With
An attorney is not the only person you will want to consider working with to form a solid estate plan. You will also want to consider hiring a financial advisor and tax professional. Together, the three parties can collaborate with you to create a customized estate plan that meets your goals and provides the proper guidance to your loved ones.
If you are uncertain who to consult, your lawyer can provide you with contacts to choose from, so you can make the best decision for your needs.
Document Your Wishes Clearly
Your estate plan can contain multiple documents detailing what is to happen to your assets, as well as the types of medical care and intervention you wish to receive should you be incapacitated.
While your attorney will thoroughly explain all of your options, you can expect to think about the following:
- Last will and testament — Designates beneficiaries and asset distribution
- Power of attorney — Assigns an individual to make health or financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated
- Living will — Provides instruction regarding the types of medical treatments you want if you are unable to communicate them yourself
Consider a Trust
You may also consider forming a trust. A trust allows you to set aside money and assets specifically for your beneficiaries. You choose what to put in the trust, who is to receive assets, and how those assets are to be distributed. The trustee is responsible for administering the trust according to specific instructions, giving you a greater degree of control and accountability compared to most wills. Depending on your situation, a trust can help your family avoid costly probate court fees.
Plan for Taxes
Your estate could be subject to state or federal taxes. Tax balances typically need to be paid out, in cash, in a number of months after a person’s death. Depending on your assets, this could be challenging for your loved ones. Fortunately, your attorney can help you determine which estate planning strategy is best for your situation, with the objective to make carrying out the plan as easy for your loved ones as possible.
Talk With Your Loved Ones
We understand the challenges associated with speaking to your loved ones about estate planning. It can be an uncomfortable conversation for everyone involved. However, it is essential to remember that being proactive now will reduce stress and burdens for your and your loved ones in the future. We can help facilitate discussions and help you revise your plan as the years pass.
Providing Peace of Mind for New Jersey Residents
No matter your financial situation, health status, or age, it is never too early to start thinking about forming an estate plan. With help from an estate planning lawyer from Van Dyck Law Group, you can rest assured that your wishes will be carried out in the event of your passing.
To learn more about preparing for the future and how to provide your loved ones with the support and guidance they need, call (609) 293-2562 or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.