Wills and other estate planning options

For some New Jersey residents, a will may not be the best estate-planning tool. In some cases, a will may get tied up in probate for months. Probate can also be expensive. However, families of individuals who opt for do-it-yourself estate planning tools may still find themselves in a long probate process. Furthermore, an individual who completes an online will may still not have properly arranged for their assets to be distributed as intended.

One issue is frequently changing laws. A will or other estate planning documents may fall out of date. There have been changes in recent years both in laws around powers of attorney and estate tax exemptions. Estate plans should also be updated regularly to reflect changes in the family as marriages and divorces happen and people are born or die.

Single people may feel that preparing an estate plan is less urgent for them because they do not have dependents. However, unlike married people, single people do not have a spouse who is likely to act as the natural decision maker for health care. Everyone who is estate planning should consider documents dealing with medical care, such as a living will, and appoint a health care proxy in case they are incapacitated, but this may be even more important for single people.

Individuals who visit a lawyer to prepare an estate plan may learn about a number of options besides wills that may suit their needs. For example, an individual might mistakenly think that trusts are tools for the wealthy. However, an attorney may be able to set up a trust that ensures the individual's minor children are taken care of until they are adults in the event of the individual's death. Communicating with loved ones about one's wishes may help ensure that those wishes are carried out.

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