Estate Planning Lawyers Serving New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania
Compassionate Attorneys Help Clients Protect Their Legacy and Care for Future Generations by Creating Comprehensive Estate Plans
Every family should be able to rest assured, knowing that their financial affairs are in order and that, when they pass, their loved ones will be cared for. However, recent statistics indicate that only 50 percent of Americans have a will. At the Begley Law Group, our knowledgeable team of New Jersey estate planning lawyers helps clients plan for the inevitable and the unexpected. If you are over 50 or are approaching retirement, we can help you prepare for your financial future and future generations.
The Basic Elements of a New Jersey Estate Plan
Every family is unique, and along those lines, no two estate plans are identical. However, there are a few common estate planning tools. For example, all estate plans should contain a will, a power of attorney and a living will. Depending on a family’s needs, one or more trusts may also help reduce the assets subject to estate tax and limit an estate’s probate assets or protect assets from the cost of future long-term care.
Estate Planning Questionnaire
A Last Will and Testament
A will is a written document. The purpose of a will is to outline who will receive an individual’s assets upon their death. These are the beneficiaries of the will. A will also states who will be in charge of distributing those assets. This is the executor of the estate.
If someone dies without a will, their assets get distributed according to state intestate laws. These laws look to the familial structure to determine who receives an individual’s assets. In some situations, the intestacy laws make sense; however, they are meant to be a back-up for those who pass on without a will. For example, a few of the default intestacy rules in New Jersey are:
- If someone dies with living children but no spouse, the children inherit everything.
- If someone dies with a living spouse and children (and their spouse does not have children with another person), the spouse inherits everything.
- If someone dies with a living spouse and children (and their spouse has children with another person), the spouse inherits the first 25 percent of the intestate property, within certain limits, plus half of the balance. The children of the decedent receive the rest.
- If someone dies with a living spouse and parents but no children of the decedent, the spouse inherits the first 25 percent of the intestate property, within certain limits, plus 75 percent of the balance. The parents of the decedent receive the rest.
New Jersey intestate rules can be complicated and rarely work to effectuate a family’s desires; however, they can easily be avoided by creating a will. At the Begley Law Group, we have over 80 years of experience helping clients’ draft wills to protect their legacy and provide for future generations.
Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills: Estate Planning Is About More Than a Will
While a will is the core element of an estate plan, it is also just the starting point. Wills have significant limitations that – no matter how well-written – cannot be overcome. For example, a will does nothing to remove estate property from the New Jersey probate process's reach and cannot protect estate assets from federal estate tax. Similarly, wills are not concerned with many critical later-in-life and end-of-life decisions. Powers of attorney and living wills should be included in an estate plan to address these matters.
A trust refers to a three-part legal relationship. The person who sets up the trust is the grantor or settlor. When setting up a trust, the grantor places property in the care of another person, the trustee, for the benefit of a third party, the beneficiary. Trusts come in many types. A revocable trust is one that is created during the grantor's lifetime and can be amended or dissolved at any time. Assets placed in a revocable trust typically will avoid the probate process but may still be subject to federal estate taxes. Irrevocable trusts are less flexible because, once they are created, the grantor can no longer modify or dissolve the trust. Assets placed in an irrevocable trust will typically avoid probate and may not be subject to estate tax. A revocable trust should always be considered if a client owns out of state real estate. By transferring the out of state real estate to a living trust, probate in the other state in which the real estate is located can be avoided.
A power of attorney is a legal document that grants one person the authority to make decisions on behalf of another. A power of attorney helps an individual plan for sudden, unanticipated disability or incapacity by clarifying in advance who will make decisions on their behalf. A power of attorney is crucial to protecting an incapacitated person's health, well-being, and property. Powers of attorney are customizable and can be custom-tailored based on an individual's unique circumstances. It is more effective if, in addition to a general durable power of attorney, the client has shorter specific powers of attorney for banking, real estate and securities.
A living will, or an advance healthcare directive specifies an individual's desires regarding the use of life-sustaining treatment in the event they are not able to make their own decisions. A living will does not appoint anyone to make these decisions, but instead outlines the type and extent of care that should be taken. A living will is incredibly helpful to family members when weighing these difficult options.
Estate Planning: Beyond the Documents
Beneficiary designations are crucial to an effective estate plan. It is important to coordinate beneficiary designations with wills and trusts. All life insurance, retirement plans and annuities should be reviewed to ensure that the beneficiary designations are consistent with the client’s intention expressed in his or her will or living trust. In addition, other accounts such as brokerage accounts and bank accounts should be reviewed to be sure that here are no POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death) designations that are inconsistent with the clients will and/or living trust.
Retilting of assets is sometimes necessary. The purpose of the retitling is sometimes to save on Federal or State estate or inheritance taxes and on other occasions to be sure that the assets are in the proper name to accomplish the client’s objectives. Sometimes this requires new deeds or retitling of assets such as brokerage accounts.
Tangible personal property should be considered as part of your estate plan. At Begley Law Group, our firm gives the client information on how tangible personal property should pass to the desired beneficiary. Typically, this is done by memorandum. If the tangible personal property includes firearms, steps must be made to ensure compliance with both Federal and State law.
Begley Law Group provides the client a binder in which to conveniently store their prepared documents. The binder contains a letter of instructions for the client to privately complete pertaining to their desired form of burial or cremation as well as personal information providing the location of important documents and a list of all the client’s passwords. The forms allow the client to provide for their executor or agent under their power of attorney important information pertaining to insurance such as property insurance, medical insurance, retirement, pension or profit-sharing plans, business interests, an inventory of their safe deposit box, list of personal property and any potential employee benefits along with information concerning names of creditors. If the client has pets, the form allows them to provide a list of veterinarians, if needed.
Call Today to Schedule a Consultation With a Compassionate Estate Planning Attorney With Begley Law Group
If you have not yet created a New Jersey estate plan, or it has been years since you last updated your estate plan, contact Begley Law Group for immediate assistance. Our dedicated team of estate planning and elder law attorneys can help create a custom-tailored plan designed specifically for your family’s unique needs. Having served clients across New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania for the past 80 years, our strength comes from our experience. To learn more, call 856-235-8501, or toll-free at 800-533-7227. You can also reach out to us through our online form.