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 or call 908-236-6457 today.

Guardianships: What Happens if I Become Incapacitated?

New Jersey Guardianship

Guardianships: What Happens if I Become Incapacitated?

The day may come when you need someone else to make physical and financial decisions on your behalf. Are you ready?

Most people take daily life for granted. Going to the bank, shopping, work or cooking for yourself and family are routine, everyday tasks. For anyone, accident or sudden illness can end that normal routine in a heartbeat. While parents are responsible for children under 18, adults who are disabled may need the help of a guardian.

As we discussed earlier, a Power of Attorney is an essential document for anyone over 18. The purpose of a Power of Attorney, as part of an estate plan, is to ensure that you choose a person or persons to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated and unable to help yourself.

With an estate plan and a comprehensive executed Power of Attorney for healthcare and financial decisions, adults are prepared if they become incapacitated by accident or by time. When a Power of Attorney is not in place, a guardian may be needed.

What is a guardian?

The state of New Jersey defines a guardian as “a person or agency appointed by a court to act on behalf of an individual.” A guardian is appointed for minor children and for adults who do not have the capacity to make important decisions about their care and finances. The two levels of guardians in New Jersey include:

*        General guardianship: A general guardian is appointed for individuals incapable of making any meaningful decisions.

*        Limited guardianship: Sometimes an individual remains capable of making some, but not all decisions. Rather than relieve an adult of their authority to make all their own decisions, care is taken to limit the authority of a guardian to just those areas where help is needed.

When a loved one is incapacitated, and there are no documents in place assigning agency to a family member or trusted friend, a family may seek the appointment of a guardian to provide needed care and protection. The legal process to appoint a guardian involves an evaluation by two licensed physicians of the physical and mental capacity of the allegedly incapacitated person, their preparation of physician affidavits, and the initiation of a court action for the appointment of guardian. The two types of guardians include:

  • Guardian of a person: The guardian of a person makes medical, residential and other decisions to ensure the physical well-being of the individual.
  • Guardian of property: A guardian of property manages property and assets and makes financial decisions to preserve the economic well-being of an incapacitated person.

A skillfully prepared estate plan usually eliminates the need for an expensive and intrusive legal guardianship proceeding. However, if the need arises, an experienced guardianship attorney in Springfield can help you make the legal arrangements needed to protect the well-being of a loved one.


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