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Bridgewater New Jersey Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate planning and family communication

One of the main keys to estate planning, if you want the whole process to go smoothly, is communication. You need to talk to the other members of your family who will be impacted by the plan. Experts advise sitting down and creating a family communication plan to address this process.

In order to do it, you need to know what questions to ask. Here are a few important ones to keep in mind:

  • How are you all going to share important information? Do you want to use email or text so that you have written records, or is it easier to talk in person and take notes?
  • Who is responsible for sharing information when it becomes available?
  • Do you have anyone in your family that you do not trust?
  • At the same time, who do you trust the most?
  • Who all needs to be involved in your estate planning conversations?
  • What are the main topics that you want to address?
  • Are there any topics that you want to bring up at very specific times? Are there things that you're thinking about now that you don't really need to discuss until later?
  • If you want to have family meetings, where do you want to have them? When should they take place?
  • Do all meetings need to be in person, or can you do them online or on the phone?
  • What are the key elements you want to talk about, such as your main wishes for your family and the specific details of your estate?

How can setting up a Delaware trust protect my assets?

The estate planning process is to be able to pass on your legacy to future generations. One key way to do that is by preserving the value of the assets that you've amassed during your lifetime. While many think that the best way to do this is by placing their funds in an offshore bank account, setting up a Delaware trust can afford you similar benefits and peace of mind.

In case you're wondering why you should set up a trust in Delaware as opposed to New Jersey, that's because the former offers some of the most favorable laws for preserve your assets while keeping your tax burden low. By setting up a Delaware trust, you're afforded a degree of anonymity that you may not enjoy elsewhere as well.

Estate planning: Common mistakes and errors

People often assume that estate planning just means writing a will. That's a good place to start. The biggest mistake people make is not drafting a will or doing any planning whatsoever. But that doesn't mean that a will is all you need or that there aren't other mistakes you should guard against.

For one thing, you need to consider all of your options. Is a trust better than leaving money to an heir directly? Do you want to set money aside for special purposes, like charities or education? Do you want your estate plan to consider your healthcare needs and end-of-life decisions? A complex plan should be about far more than leaving property to your kids. Thinking about an estate plan in such simplistic terms, and failing to look at all the options you have, is a dire mistake.

How children can talk to their parents about estate planning

For children, starting that estate planning conversation may feel intimidating or even impossible. You want to talk to your parents because you know they haven't done enough planning -- or any at all -- but you don't want them to be insulted. You don't want it to sound like you're just trying to find out what you're going to get when they pass away.

At the same time, you know how important estate planning is. Many people put it off, but not having a plan when it's needed can lead to confusion, arguments among heirs and many other issues. So, how do you get your parents to talk about it?

Activating estate gifts can allow you to see their benefit

In many cases, people who pledge money to schools or institutions cannot see the effects that their money will lead to. Why? Those funds are usually not released until they pass away.

A better option for some individuals is the option for early activation. With early activation, the funds are released to the school sooner, so students are aided immediately. Additionally, donors can see how those funds are used and how they affect people in the system.

Are there good ways to protect your assets from creditors?

As you age, it is important to begin thinking about how to protect your assets. Even younger individuals need to do this, particularly if they've inherited money or earn a lot each year.

Asset protection isn't just for those wanting to preserve their assets for their loved ones. It's also for those who want to protect their assets against claims from creditors. Here's a little more on asset protection and what might help you keep your assets safe.

Getting your will right: An important legal document

Most people know that creating a will is a normal part of growing older. You start to collect assets, so it only makes sense that you'd want to create a will to protect those assets and state who should receive them upon your death.

A will, also known as your Last Will and Testament, is a document that declares the heirs to your estate, names the person who will be in charge of disposition and assures the integrity of the disposition. This can be an iron-clad document if you're careful, but you have to be cautious of questions of testamentary capacity.

Executors: An honorable, but difficult, job

One of the reasons that estate administration is so difficult for people is because it is not very common and requires planning years in advance. That planning may or may not involve the person who will eventually take over the estate. No one likes to bring up death, but not doing so actually makes an executor's job harder.

After a person dies, the executor must make sure the will is carried out and that the estate is taken care of. That may mean paying bills, resolving debts or doling out property to beneficiaries. In fact, executors are entrusted with the responsibility to make sure a person's wishes are met, even after death. It is important that the executor will act in good faith and carry out the decedent's wishes in good time.

Should you choose irrevocable trusts to protect your assets?

You've worked hard to live a life with many assets, and at this point, you just want to protect as many of them as you can. As you age, you know you could risk losing assets to the government if you do not plan carefully.

There is an easy solution. If you want to protect your assets, one of the things you can do is have an irrevocable trust. This trust cannot be terminated or modified without a beneficiary's permission. You, the grantor, transfer assets into the trust. This removes the assets from your ownership.

4 reasons you may need an advance directive

When you create an advance directive, you lay out your wishes for medical care in writing. These are decisions you would typically make in person, at the time they need to be made, but the advance directive gives you some insurance if you're unable to do that. You can address things like what lifesaving machines you want the doctors to use and whether or not you should be resuscitated.

Four reasons you may need an advance directive include:

  1. You have severe dementia. You can no longer make choices for yourself. You do not understand the situation or the ramifications of your decisions, and you cannot accurately make your desires known to your family.
  2. You went into a coma. It is impossible for you to communicate your wishes. Without an advance directive, your family has to make those choices for you.
  3. You are suffering from a terminal illness. For instance, perhaps you had a stroke. You can no longer talk or communicate with those around you. Even if you still understand the situation, you have no way to express your desires.
  4. You suffered a serious injury. You may have gotten in a car accident, for instance. When you arrived at the hospital, you were still unconscious. Doctors need to act quickly, and it helps to know what you would want them to do.
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