The Documents You Need for Your Estate Plan

The Documents You Need for Your Estate Plan

Whether you are thinking about creating an estate plan or already have one in place, it is important to ensure you have the proper documentation. Unless you have a law degree, understanding estate planning can be confusing.

In this DIY age, you may be inclined to try and create your estate plan on your own via the internet. Don’t. In fact, without an effective estate plan and proper documentation, your future heirs may suffer and your last wishes may not be upheld.

Following are the documents you need to ensure your legacy is preserved:

1. A will — For many people, this is the be all/end all of estate planning – the holiest of holy documents and the only one seen as worth having. A will is indeed vital to your estate plan as it provides instructions on how your property and assets should be disposed of and who your beneficiaries should be. In your will, you may describe how you wish to be buried, what charities you wish to donate to, who should care for your pets, and more. Additionally, your will allows you to name an executor to handle the administration of your estate after your death. Without this document, your estate is subject to New Jersey’s intestacy laws.

2. A health care proxy — A health care proxy is a document that names a trusted individual to make decisions about your health should you become unconscious or mentally disabled. No one wants to imagine what might happen to their loved ones if they should fall into a vegetative state or suffer from a terrible illness like dementia. Yet considering such possibilities and setting up a health care proxy is important to ensure your family knows your wishes should something happen to you.

3. Durable Power of attorney — Unfortunately, many estate planners stop at their will. While your will is extremely important to your estate plan, the buck doesn’t stop there. What if you should become incapacitated via accident, injury or illness? Who will handle decisions about your healthcare and finances? With a durable power of attorney, you name a trusted person who takes care of things like paying your bills, making medical decisions or handling your investments.

No two estate plans are the same. Your estate plan reflects your life, your estate, your assets and the legacy you wish to leave behind. Depending on your unique situation, your plan may be more or less complicated.

For more information about estate planning in Union or Hunterdon County, consult with Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

Estate Plan Checklist

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After weeks, months, or maybe even years of procrastinating, you’re finally ready to set up your estate plan. Remember, the sooner you create your estate plan, the sooner you will have peace of mind that your family is taken care of should something happen to you.

Many people who decide to create an estate plan say, I just want a simple plan, nothing fancy. The truth of the matter is that your estate, assets and family members greatly determine the complexity of your estate plan. So while you may want a simple plan that requires very little of your time to set up, the circumstances of your estate and life may dictate otherwise.

Of course you can always make your life easier by running through the following estate plan checklist:

  1. Determine the goal of your estate plan — So, you’ve decided you need an estate plan. Why? What is the ultimate goal of having an estate plan in place? Are you a philanthropist who wants to see your wealth enjoyed by the less fortunate? Maybe you want to leave everything you have to your spouse. Or perhaps your intention is to preserve your legacy for many generations after you’re gone.
  2. Retain an estate planning lawyer — Unless you practice law, you probably don’t know much about estate planning, wills, trusts, healthcare directives and other estate planning mechanisms. When hiring a lawyer, make sure you choose someone who practices estate planning law in your state. And no, don’t attempt to move forward on your own without an estate planning lawyer — this is your legacy after all.
  3. Identify your assets — Prior to setting up an estate plan, you need to be able to identify all assets and property you own. Depending on your financial situation, compiling such a list may require more than a Sunday afternoon.
  4. Identify your executor — If you had to choose one person in your life to handle all your affairs after your death, who would it be? The person you name as your executor must be a trustworthy and competent individual who will ensure the wishes of your last will and testament are carried out.

Now that you’ve successfully gone through this checklist, it’s time to draft your estate plan. To begin the process, make an appointment with your estate planning lawyer as soon as possible. For more information on estate planning in NJ and NY, Contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com, or call 908-236-6457.

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