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Flemington NJ Estate Planning Law Blog

Including a Letter of Final Wishes in a will

New Jersey residents may be familiar with a non-legal estate planning document known as a Letter of Final Wishes. This document provides a way for the testator to express their wishes pertaining to important personal issues not stated in the will. When writing an LFW, it is recommended that the testator arrange it into several different sections.

The first section could outline the testator's wishes about the final arrangements and an explanation regarding his or her thinking about any unique provisions in the will. Other sections could address mundane issues, legal matters and various other personal affairs.Testators can also outline their burial and funeral arrangements, list those to be notified of their death, offer details regarding a military service and provide details regarding a memorial service.

How to handle your estate planning issues

When it comes to your financial goals regarding your retirement and leaving your assets to your family in case you should become incapacitated or die, you probably want to be prepared in the best way possible. For this reason, our New Jersey attorneys work hard to protect the best interests of our clients. With decades of experience, our attorneys have helped our clients with creating effective estate plans, settling legal disputes regarding trust and estate-related disputes, and assisting with the estate administration process.

Our firm could also help you make a contingency plan that provides for your children if you are not able to care for them in the future. In addition, if you need legal representation regarding the mismanagement of an estate or trust, or you desire to challenge the contents of a will, we will do our best to fight for your rights and uncover any wrongdoing on the part of an administrator or executor.

Dealing with social media accounts after someone has died

Many individuals living in New Jersey and all over the world have social media accounts. People of all ages use platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to stay connected with friends and loved ones and as a source of news. However, once someone passes away, his or her accounts still remain active, which can result in people being given painful reminders of another person's passing in their timeline or friend recommendations.

Some experts recommend that people take over a deceased person's social media accounts to prevent these unfortunate situations from occurring. In order to do so, it's first necessary to check each platform's terms of service. In some cases, legal documents are all that are needed to close or memorialize an account, but other services may require that a person proves that they are a representative of the decedent.

Appraiser tries to lower estate tax by undervaluing paintings

When a New Jersey resident is the executor of an estate, there may be items that need to be appraised. It is important to choose an independent appraiser who does not have a conflict of interest. The person should not be someone who will benefit from the sale of the items.

In one case, an executor had two Old Master paintings appraised. One was valued at $500,000 and the other at $100,000. The appraiser was from Sotheby's, and that company was also supposed to in charge of auctioning the paintings. However, the IRS argued that the values were $1.75 million and $300,000, respectively. When the estate petitioned for a redetermination, the IRS raised the value to $2.1 million and $500,000.

The importance of powers of attorne

When New Jersey residents get older, they should strongly consider having powers of attorney created. Powers of attorney provide trusted individuals the ability to make financial choices for another person in their stead. Depending on how a document is drafted, a trusted individual, called the agent, may be able to pay someone's bills, sell their property or purchase food and other necessities for them.

Powers of attorney can be created so that they specifically outline what an agent can and cannot do. This is why many experts recommend that a person use a lawyer to create a power of attorney rather than fill out a form. These documents can be very important when a person is too sick to make these choices or handle these tasks. This is especially true since older individuals sometimes suffer from degraded mental faculties and may require someone they trust to be in charge of their finances.

Common estate planning problems to watch out for

Ideally, New Jersey residents should have estate plans in place to ensure that their final wishes will be carried out. A basic plan may include a will, a living trust and powers of attorney. However, it is important that an estate plan is constructed properly to avoid a myriad of issues that could make it harder to comply with its terms.

First, a will should be read carefully to ensure that it says what an individual wants it to. It should also be examined to make sure that all intended beneficiaries are included and that what they are to receive is clearly indicated. How beneficiaries are chosen and what they inherit may be impacted by estate tax issues. While only 0.2 percent of Americans will pay federal estate tax, it is important to consider inheritance taxes.

Executing a parent's will

Individuals in New Jersey who have been named as an executor of a parent's will should be aware of what the role entails. Understanding the responsibilities is the first step in making sure that a parent's last wishes are correctly carried out.

If it is possible, those who have been named as executors should speak with their parents to review the contents of the will, discuss their plans for family heirlooms and verify that all other family members have been informed of their final wishes. Doing so may help avoid confusion and conflict from occurring later on when their parents die.

Nearly six in 10 U.S. adults don't have a will

Most New Jersey residents know the importance of estate planning. However, a study shows that nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults do not have a will in place.

In January, researchers from Princeton Survey Research Associates International asked 1,003 adults if they had wills, living trusts or other estate planning documents. If respondents didn't have any estate plans in place, they were asked to explain why. Researchers found that only 42 percent of respondents had a will. Of those without estate planning documents, 47 percent said they hadn't gotten around to preparing them. In many cases, people procrastinate over wills because they don't like talking about death and because they like to think they're going to live forever. Of course, the reality is that people can die at any time, and plans need to be made for the sake of loved ones.

Estate planning for end-of-life care

Elderly people in New Jersey sometimes need their children to help them manage their finances. Adult children are frequently put in charge of paying bills, making investment decisions or applying for benefits. If an elderly person is completely incapacitated, he or she may need other people to be put in charge of critical health care decisions.

It's important for adult children to discuss their parents' end-of-life care options with them while they're still able to communicate their wishes. If there is no plan put in place early, relatives of an elderly person may have to go through the process of declaring him or her incompetent and then petitioning the court for guardianship rights. These legal processes can be stressful, especially if family members are not sure what their elderly loved one's wishes were.

Including a simultaneous death clause in an estate plan

Most people in New Jersey do not expect to die at the same time as their spouses. Therefore, estate plans may not take the possibility of simultaneous death into account. However, fatal car accidents and other tragedies can result in two family members dying at the same time, and these events may complicate the deceased parties' estate plans.

People with intertwined estates, such as married spouses, should include a simultaneous death clause in their estate plans. In the event that determining who died first is impossible, the simultaneous death clause will ensure that the deceased parties' assets go in a preplanned direction. The goal of a simultaneous death clause is to avoid the possibility that intestacy laws will be used to determine where a couple's assets go.

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