Creating a Fair Estate Plan for Your Children

Create-a-Fair-Estate-Plan-For-Your-Children

If you’re a parent, it goes without saying — you want what’s best for your kids. When your children are young, it makes sense to divide your estate equally among them. However, as your kids get older and reach their 20s and 30s, you may discover that one child is more financially responsible than another. How does this affect your estate plan? Should one child receive more than the other?

When creating your estate plan and deciding how your property and assets should be divided after you die, consider the following factors:

  • Caregiver — What if one child stuck around to take care of you later in life while your other children moved away? You may want to leave more to him or her since he or she sacrificed part of their life to take care of you.
  • Life situations — One child may be a single lawyer with few expenses while the other may have a large family to support on a modest salary. Should both children receive the same amount?
  • Special needs children — If you have a child who is handicapped or disabled, he or she will likely require special care and attention for the rest of their lives. As a result, he or she may require considerably more assets to survive.
  • Younger children may need more support — Is there a drastic age disparity between your children? You may have older children who are independent adults and a younger child who is just broaching adulthood.

Regardless of how you decide to set up your estate plan, one thing is certain: you must inform your children — you do not want have them surprised by your estate plan. In some cases, siblings are so distraught over the outcome of a Will, they may seek a will contest. The last thing you want as a parent, is to have your children fighting over your will after you die. Sit down with a skilled estate planning attorney, voice your concerns, and heed his or her advice. Then, speak to your children and let them know about your estate plan and what they should expect if you pass away or become incapacitated.

Many aspects of estate planning are complicated and sensitive. By consulting with an experienced lawyer, you can gain a better understanding of the process and ensure your legacy is enjoyed by your children. Contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com, or call 908-236-6457 for assistance with estate planning matters in New Jersey and New York.

My Kids Are So Different – How Do I Plan My Estate?

power of a will, wills, trusts, estate planning, union and hunterdon counties new jersey

Thank you for reading the July edition of BMC’s End of the Month Newsletter. This month my wife is on a two-week (actually 16 day) trip to South Africa, and Daddy (that’s me) is on duty right now. Her absence has me thinking about estate planning as it relates to children.

When your children are young, it makes sense to divide your estate equally among them. However, as your kids get older and reach their 20s and 30s, you may discover that one child is more financially responsible than another. How does this affect your estate plan?

When creating your estate plan and deciding how your property and assets should be divided after you die, consider the following factors:

  • Caregiver — What if one child stuck around to take care of you later in life while your other children moved away? You may want to leave more to him or her since he or she sacrificed part of their life to take care of you.
  • Life situations — One child may be a single lawyer with few expenses while the other may have a large family to support on a modest salary. Should both children receive the same amount?
  • Younger children may need more support — Is there a drastic age disparity between your children? You may have older children who are independent adults and a younger child who is just broaching adulthood.
  • Trust protection – Ask yourself these questions: Are your children in rocky marriages? Are they in high risk professions? Are your children bad at handling money? Should my children receive their shares outright or would it be better to for them to receive their shares in a trust that will help protect them from themselves/divorce/creditors?

At the end of the day, no matter how you structure your plan, one thing is certain: you must inform your children — you do not want them surprised by your estate plan. In my experience, siblings are so distraught over the outcome of a will, they often seek a will contest when it could have been avoided by a conversation during the testator’s lifetime. The last thing you want as a parent is to have your children fighting over your will after you die.

But the first step is to think about the issues involved, and call us with any questions you might have.

If you have any estate planning questions, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or email me at alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

Why Do You Need a Will Now?

Why Do You Need a Will Now?

Surveys reveal that most Americans put off until tomorrow the Will they should prepare today. Why? Because facing mortality is not comfortable at any age. However, as time presses on and responsibilities mount, taking care of loved ones after you are gone assumes even greater importance.

Whether in Hunterdon, Union, Bergen or any county in New Jersey, a Will is an important aspect of an estate plan. Life—like death—is uncertain. If you pass away without a Will in New Jersey, state law dictates distribution of the assets you worked so hard to accumulate during your life.

Consider these reasons for creating your Will sooner instead of later:

  1. Choices: Writing your Will gives you the opportunity to make necessary decisions. Just as you make choices about how you live your life and use your assets, a Will enables you to make final decisions about your property after you pass away.
  1. Children: A Will is important for all parents. If you have minor children, a Will designates who becomes the guardian of your children should you, and potentially their other parent, die. While this seems a distant possibility, it is comforting to know that your children will be raised and cared for by those of your choice—rather than guardians chosen by a court.
  1. Family: A properly drafted Will helps your family in many ways. After a death, family members suffer grief, stress and shock. Taking the time to care for your family now is a gift to those who will mourn your loss later. A correctly prepared Will smoothly and rapidly directs the disposition of assets to beneficiaries and reduces the likelihood of ill will between family members.
  1. Details: A Will details what you have and where it should go. By mustering this information, you save time and expense for the executor appointed to carry out your wishes. Only you know all the property you own and the location of assets and accounts. As you work through the details of distributing assets during preparation of your Will, you make decisions that only you can, and should, make.

Take the time to help secure the future of your loved ones by making your Will today. When you have questions about creating or updating your Will in New Jersey, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.  Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner in the firm will come to your house or place of business in New Jersey, or we can meet you in our Lebanon or Springfield offices.  To schedule a consultation, please call 908-236-6457 or email alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

A Cautionary Tale: The Will of Philip Seymour Hoffman

A Cautionary Tale: The Will of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was one of the most talented actors of his generation. When he passed away of a drug overdose in February of this year, he left behind a brilliant career, a grieving partner, three children—and a Will that cannot do justice to his last wishes.

Filed in Manhattan Superior Court, the Will of Mr. Hoffman was signed in 2004, a year after the birth of his first child. Small omissions in his Will make a big difference in the legacy Mr. Hoffman sought to leave behind.

Consider these points:

  • Reportedly prepared by a real estate attorney, the Will did not address the fine points of law required for the distribution of assets Mr. Hoffman desired.
  • While Marianne O’Donnell, the longtime partner of Mr. Hoffman, is named the primary beneficiary of the Will, the two were not married. Because they remained unmarried, even as the estate of Mr. Hoffman grew to approximately $35 million, Ms. O’Donnell cannot take advantage of a marital deduction. The deduction would have allowed the full bequest to flow to Ms. O’Donnell. As it stands, Ms. O’Donnell may pay up to $15 million in taxes on the inheritance.
  • The Will was executed in 2004, ten years before Mr. Hoffman passed away. In that time, Mr. Hoffman did not update the Will to include his two daughters. Had Mr. Hoffman consulted with an attorney focused on estate planning, he might have amended the Will to better protect Ms. O’Donnell and the children born after execution of the original Will.
  • Mr. Hoffman set up a trust fund for his first-born child, a son named Cooper. In the Will, his son is named to receive assets of the trust when he reaches the age of 30. The trust protects the inheritance only until his son is of age. Trusts of this nature are commonly structured to allow the beneficiary freedom to select successive trustees at a certain age, not to release the sum of the inheritance itself.
  • New York law may protect the inheritance of the two daughters not named in the Will. Still, the law may not apply if Mr. Hoffman later named either daughter as beneficiary of other insurance or retirement fund accounts.

Legal action will no doubt be required to resolve these and other issues. The death—and the flawed Will—of Mr. Hoffman serve as a cautionary tale. When you seek to take care of loved ones in New Jersey, speak with a knowledgeable attorney who focuses his practice on Wills and estate planning.  If you would like Alec Borenstein, Esq., partner in the law firm to visit you for a free consultation, please email alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

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