Steps in preparing an estate plan

New Jersey residents who are planning their estates may wonder what steps they need to take and what documents they may be advisable beyond a will. A person may want to consider using a living trust in addition to a will because it might allow assets to be distributed more privately and quickly than a will. People should also keep in mind that beneficiary designation forms such as those for retirement plans and life insurance policies are part of an estate plan and must be kept up to date.

One document most people should have is an advance health care directive. This spells out health care actions that should be taken or avoided in the event a person becomes incapacitated. and unable to state those preferences. A power of attorney gives someone the ability to manage the incapacitated person's finances. This position might be appointed if no documentation is created. A HIPAA release form allows people who are making decisions about health care access to the incapacitated person's medical records.

It is important to begin thinking about an estate plan long before these provisions are necessary. Starting with a list of assets as well as a list of loved ones and advisers is a good place to begin. People should not neglect to list digital assets including ways of accessing online accounts.

The process of creating an estate plan can feel overwhelming, but an attorney may be able to break down the various components and help make it seem more manageable. Issues to consider include the size of an estate, whether people plan to disinherit any family members and whether any loved ones might need a trust or some other method of managing their inheritance.

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