New Jersey residents can't predict when they may find themselves incapacitated. If they do, how their affairs are carried out depends on how their estate plan was created. If the plan has a power of attorney, whoever was granted that power has the authority to manage the principal's affairs. It is important to point out that it must be signed by the principal while he or she is of sound mind.
Once a person is not of sound mind, family members or other concerned parties may have to pursue legal guardianship. Without legal guardianship or a power of attorney, beneficiaries generally cannot take control of assets that may be left to them. A power of attorney can be created and signed at any time by anyone who is 18 or older. This is true even if a person doesn't anticipate the need for one in the near future.
Ideally, an estate plan will cover matters that may be relevant both while a person is alive and after he or she dies. Those who are named as the agent under a power of attorney may be guided by its language to take actions that the incapacitated individual may likely have done if in good health.
In addition to financial and health care powers of attorney, estate plans may also contain wills or trusts. A will may allow a person to name beneficiaries to his or her assets while a trust may hold them outside of an estate. Holding assets outside of an estate may be beneficial in the event that a person would like to avoid the probate process.