Like people everywhere, New Jersey residents tend to put off estate planning because the process raises uncomfortable subjects. The excuse that only older individuals or parents of young children need estate plans ignores the reality that a medical emergency could happen to anyone at any time.
When an injury or sudden illness incapacitates someone without a spouse or children, a hospital has no way to know the medical wishes of the person if a health care directive does not exist. Estate planning experts consider this document to be an essential part of an estate plan. It designates who will make medical decisions for the person and explains what life support methods are permissible. Writing this directive also gives the person an opportunity to give the designated decision maker written consent for access to medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires this detail.
Once the directive and other components of an estate plan are written, the people entrusted with decision making duties need to have access to the documents. Taking the time to think through final wishes before a worst-case scenario occurs allows a person to gain peace of mind about what might happen. In addition to addressing medical situations, a complete estate plan would also declare how assets should be distributed in the event of a death.
Ideally, estate plan documents clearly state a person’s final wishes and thoroughly address all details. An attorney who has experience in preparing living wills and other documents could inform a client about all the pertinent issues. Frequently, the tax consequences for the recipients of assets should be examined. An attorney could research how to achieve the client’s goals without causing tax bills for beneficiaries of an estate.