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Flemington NJ Estate Planning Law Blog

Reasons to use an irrevocable trust

An irrevocable trust may be an effective estate planning tool for New Jersey residents. It is called an irrevocable trust because the terms cannot be changed once the trust has been create. An individual may either create such a trust during his or her lifetime or use provisions in a will to create one upon death.

One of the benefits of providing for an irrevocable trust through a will is that a will may still be changed while a person is still alive. For a trust to be valid, it must have property transferred into it as well as be signed by its creator. Trust language should be specific enough for the trustee to follow correctly, and language may dictate how assets are to be invested or when a person may be entitled to funds within the trust.

Why unmarried couples may need estate plans

People in New Jersey who live with a partner but are not married could risk losing their shared assets if the partner dies. Furthermore, unmarried partners legally do not have a right to make medical decisions on behalf of each other. However, creating an estate plan can help solve these problems.

A health care power of attorney names the person who will make medical decisions. This includes the right to decide on life-saving procedures and organ donations. Therefore, it is important that partners clearly understand each other's wishes in this area. Another important consideration is the home that the two people live in. If it is in only one person's name, with no estate plan in place, and that person dies, the partner could be forced to leave. There are several options, including adding the other person to the title, for dealing with this possibility. Other assets will be distributed to family members and not the unmarried partner if there is no estate plan. This could include assets that the partners consider shared.

The responsibilities of a trustee

Understanding the duties of a trustee may help New Jersey residents who are creating an estate plan that includes a trust select the right person for this job. A trustee is the person who is responsible for overseeing the trust. Managing the trust, investing the assets that are in the trust and distributing assets to beneficiaries are all responsibilities of the trustee.

In managing a trust, a trustee must be aware of state and federal laws regarding the trust and must keep accurate records. Trustees are responsible for filing tax returns on behalf of the trust and paying any taxes that are owed. Trustees also invest assets. How these assets are invested depends on the goal of the beneficiaries.

Estate planning for second marriages

New Jersey residents who get married for the second time should be aware of the estate planning and financial issues that can arise. The complications that are created by blended families can easily get out of hand.

If there are commingled assets and incomes in a second marriage, those funds may not be safe from previous creditors. It is important that finances in the second marriage are kept separate if there are joint obligations with a former spouse. Even if the divorce order is explicit as to which party should be held responsible, creditors are not obligated to abide by it.

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.

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