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Flemington NJ Estate Planning Law Blog

Why special needs trusts are important

Parents in New Jersey and elsewhere will ideally create an estate plan that takes into account the needs of their children. Doing so may be more important if a child has special physical, mental or emotional needs. This is because a properly crafted plan may allow a child to receive assets without jeopardizing their ability to receive government benefits if necessary.

One mistake to avoid is naming a child as a beneficiary to money inside of a retirement account. Some people choose to do this because of the flexibility and convenience it provides. If a child currently qualifies for Medicaid, receiving that money directly may disqualify him or her going forward. To avoid such a situation, it may be best to create a special needs trust.

Why durable powers of attorney are important

New Jersey adults of all ages should think about having some basic estate planning documents in place. Even people who are in their 20s may benefit by drafting these documents because unexpected accidents or illnesses can occur. There are several types of estate planning tools that can offer protection in the event that people become incapacitated and are unable to make financial decisions for themselves either temporarily or permanently.

Durable powers of attorney may offer the type of protection that people might need if they are unable to make financial decisions for themselves. If people suffer a debilitating injury or illness and are unable to make those decisions, it can make things very difficult. Family members may be unable to access their accounts, pay bills and take care of other important tasks without durable powers of attorney.

The importance of a funeral planning declaration

When New Jersey residents are making their estate plans, they may not include what they want their final arrangements to be. Traditionally, the final arrangements were included in a person's will. However, those who have specific desires should prepare a funeral planning declaration.

This document is somewhat similar to a power of attorney that grants a trusted love one the power to organize and carry out the person's final wishes. For example, if the person wants to be buried or cremated, the declaration ensures that those wishes will be carried out. If the person does not have any particular wishes when it comes to his or her final arrangements, the document grants a trusted loved one the authority to lay the person to rest as he or she sees fit.

Elements of an estate plan for entrepreneurs

Many entrepreneurs in Hunterdon County rely in large part on the income of their businesses. Since this income is responsible for sheltering the family, feeding them and providing a consistent standard of living, protecting the business is a necessity that shouldn't be overlooked in estate planning. However, a survey of entrepreneurs found that few had engaged in even the basics of protecting their business interests.

The first documents a business owner will want to investigate are various powers of attorney, wills and living trusts. Most are aware of the health care proxy, which authorizes a specified person to make health care decisions in the case of incapacity. A financial power of attorney functions similarly by vesting a person with the ability to make financial decisions, such as conducting transactions, paying taxes and dealing with clients.

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.

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Lanza & Lanza LLP
5 Main Street
Flemington, NJ 08822

Phone: 908-905-0183
Fax: 908-782-4012
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