Questions to Consider When Estate Planning

wills, estates, estate planning, what, to, leave, union, hunterdon, new jersey

Many people avoid planning their estate or speaking to an estate planning attorney because they fear their own mortality. Let’s face it — pondering your demise and how your survivors will spend your hard-earned assets can be unsettling.

However, like going to the doctor, seeing an estate planning lawyer can grant you peace of mind. Wouldn’t you like to sleep at night knowing that if something should happen to you, the people you love will be taken care of?

Prior to speaking to an estate planning attorney, you should take a moment to write down and answer the following difficult, yet often overlooked questions:

1. Have I listed my passwords and security codes for my accounts? In the digital age it is easy to accumulate a notebook full of account usernames and passwords for online banks, social media sites and investment institutions. In the event of your death, what will happen to these accounts? Who will manage them? Will they expire? Should they expire? Will they even be accessible? Questions about digital assets are very important.

2. Should my family pull the plug if I become incapacitated? It’s a difficult question to ask and answer, but the reality is that life-changing injuries and diseases occur, especially as we age. If you should fall into a coma or suffer a traumatic brain injury, what do you want to happen? Without explicit instructions, your family may not know what to do.

3. Who will look after Fido after I die? Do you have a dog, cat, bird or other pet? Have you thought about what might happen to him or her after you die? It is important to include specific instructions regarding your pet — if you fail to answer this question, your beloved companion may be carted off to a shelter. A pet trust might be the answer.

4. Is my family aware of ALL of my relationships with others? Imagine this scenario: You’re married for 25 years and have three wonderful children. However, at some point in time you secretly have an extra-marital affair that none of your family members know about. Suddenly at your funeral, your spouse and children encounter your lover — heartache turns sour as two worlds collide. Be sure to ask the attorney about conflicts of interest.

5. Who will raise the kids if my spouse and I both pass away? If you are thinking about your estate plan, surely you’ve thought about what will happen to your kids if you should suddenly die — your spouse will look after them, right? However, what if you and your spouse die together, or shortly after one another? What will become of your children? Make sure you know who your guardians are going to be.

These are only few examples of the type of important questions you need to think about when planning your estate. For more information on estate planning in Hunterdon and Union Counties, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., by email at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

Updating an Estate Plan After a Divorce in New Jersey

Updating an Estate Plan After a Divorce: Making sure your estate plan is up to date is important—especially after a divorce. 

In New Jersey, if you know you are moving toward divorce, there is no better time than the present to look at your estate plan. After a divorce, state law revokes language in a Will executed prior to divorce that appoints property to a former spouse.   However, this important revocation occurs only after divorce. In the interim, before or during divorce, your Will remains enforceable as written unless amended or remade.

After divorce, if you pass away without having revised your Will, you may be considered to have died intestate, without a Will, if your document does not name beneficiaries other than your former spouse. With no Will to direct distribution of your estate, the intestacy laws of New Jersey apply.

An estate plan requires considered thought. Many individuals undergoing or exiting a divorce do not feel up to the sometimes difficult decisions required of an estate plan. Nonetheless, a good estate plan—and updated documents—are the best way to protect you and your family.

Important estate planning points to review in the event of a divorce in New Jersey include:

  • Beneficiaries: Update the beneficiaries of your life insurance, retirement funds, annuities and other policies or investments. Create and name a trust to receive proceeds for the benefit of your children or other persons.
  • Guardians: If you have minor children, your ex-spouse is the guardian of your children, unless the parent is declared unfit by a court. Name a secondary guardian to care for your children in the event the need arises.
  • Trust documents: Work with your estate planning attorney to update your living trust and other trust tools you may have after divorce.
  • Advanced medical directives: Update your health care proxy directive to ensure appropriate individuals are named to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
  • Durable power of attorney: Like your health care proxy directive, be sure to create a new durable power of attorney to name an agent other than your former spouseto make financial decisions in your best interests if you are disabled.
  • Will: A new Will is essential for persons moving through divorce. Your estate planning attorney can help you address important points including the designation of a new executor.

Once prepared, revisit your estate plan every three to five years, or as needed by life events or changes in tax and estate planning laws in New Jersey.

Be sure your estate plan protects you and your loved ones both during and after your divorce. When you have questions about your Will or planning documents in Hunterdon County or Union County, talk to a skilled estate planning attorney.

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