Everyone has an estate, even those who do not consider themselves wealthy. An estate is comprised of anything someone owns including their home, vehicle, bank accounts, life insurance policies and other personal possessions like jewelry. Estate planning is the process of determining what will be given to who (individuals and organizations), when an untimely death occurs. Top family law attorneys emphasize the critical nature of estate planning. Here are some of the most common questions they receive regarding this topic.
Why does someone need an estate plan?
An estate plan is a very useful set of documents that allows medical and financial decisions to be made for the estate holder in the event they are unable to make those decisions themselves. Furthermore, it will help in planning for the distribution of assets following a death. Otherwise, the government could be the beneficiary, instead of the children or charities of the estate holder’s choosing.
When should someone start planning?
It is never too early or too late to start estate planning. Most top trusts and estate attorneys in New Jersey recommend meeting with a family law attorney in one’s early forties for the best planning outcomes.
In the event of death without a will, the assets will pass to either the estate’s joint owner or the account’s beneficiaries. If no beneficiaries have been chosen, children will receive an equal distribution of half of all assets, while a spouse will receive the other half. Any other structuring of the plan is almost impossible without creating an estate plan, which can help to arrange a plan and beneficiaries as the estate holder would want.
Can estate planning be done online?
The short answer is yes, but the more complete answer is that the forms found online are often too generic to reflect the specific financial situation of the estate holder. For a more comprehensive estate plan that accounts for all financial and medical needs, contact a family law attorney in New Jersey to personalize an estate plan.
Who should make decisions when the estate holder is unable to do so themselves?
For someone who is physically or mentally unable to make decisions on their own behalf, remember to appoint a trustworthy friend or family member to handle such important decisions. Since that individual will also be managing the estate, they should have some financial or investment experience. Above all, trust their judgment, and be confident that the person chosen will be acting in the best interest of the estate holder.
What is guardianship or conservatorship?
If there is no one who can be appointed as a trustee of the estate, guardianship and conservatorship are both options. Working together, the conservator will handle financial responsibilities while the guardian will make any necessary medical decisions that the estate holder is unable to make. One person can serve in both capacities, but to be officially approved for either position, the individual being appointed must file a court petition, obtain a bond, and attend a hearing where people may object to the individual’s appointment, which would then result in further review of the guardianship or conservatorship.
How often should an estate plan be reviewed?
Thoroughly review the estate plan every three to five years, or more often for those who have more pressing healthcare concerns. For a small fee, a family law attorney in New Jersey can conduct an annual or semi-annual review of the estate plan. The attorney will be much more aware of changes in taxation and legislation, and can adjust the estate plan accordingly.
What are the criteria for choosing an estate planner?
The first step in choosing between the top trusts and estate attorneys in New Jersey is to ensure that their primary focus is actually estate planning. Then, ask whether the planner offers a fixed or hourly rate. Fixed rates are preferable, as an estate planner who bills hourly may not offer the same efficiency if they have the freedom to make the same amount of work but taking longer to complete. If these two criteria are met, make sure that there is someone in the office who is readily available to answer any urgent questions in the event the estate planner is unavailable. Ensure that documents can be sent promptly for review, so that the estate planner is kept well aware of all changes made to the plan.
For those who have questions about estate planning, or are anxious to get started planning documents like a will and trust, contact a family law attorney in New Jersey to get started today.