As the old saying goes, "You can't take it with you!" That may be true, but New Jersey law does allow people to determine who will get their property when they pass away. Estate planning is essential in order to ensure that a person's wishes are carried out.
If there is no estate plan, the state of New Jersey will get to decide where a person's property goes when he or she passes away. In addition, state law will dictate who will be appointed as the personal representative of the estate. If there are minor children and both parents have passed away, the state will determine who will become the legal guardian of the children.
In order to avoid these things from happening, everyone needs at least a will. This document can dictate who will handle the maker's affairs, who gets what property and who will take care of the minor children. Other documents can be added as needed to handle whatever circumstances surround each individual's estate. Other popular documents are living wills, powers of attorney and trusts.
These documents can be drafted to handle each person's specific needs. However, it is just as important to make sure that an estate plan is up-to-date. When estate planning documents no longer reflect the party's current circumstances, the effect can be just as devastating as if the party had no estate plan. Reviewing these documents every so often will ensure that they are not only up-to-date with the maker's life circumstances, but that they are also current with any changes in state or federal laws.
Source: capitalgazette.com, A well-thought out estate plan can prevent 'heir'-raising results, No author, Aug. 29, 2013