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.

Willy Wonka’s Final (Estate Planning) Lesson

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Within the last two months, the world lost a comedic legend. Gene Wilder died on August 29, 2016, after battling with Alzheimer’s disease. Although Wilder faced many physical and mental challenges as a result of the disease, Alzheimer’s “never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central gentle life-affirming core personality,” according to Wilder’s nephew. The graceful way with which Wilder handled his disease can teach us a couple of very important retirement and estate planning lessons.

First, when Wilder retired, he not only planned well, but he kept things simple. Wilder is famous for saying that he “loved the show, he just didn’t like the business.” For that reason, Wilder lived in Stamford, Connecticut (as opposed to Los Angeles) in a modest home (by celebrity standards) with his fourth wife Karen.

According to Scott Martin, “Unlike most stars we profile, Gene Wilder died somewhere between filthy rich and flat broke, spending down his cash while remaining comfortable to the end.”

In the same vein, it’s critical that we plan our retirements in advance, not only from a legal perspective (with Wills, powers of attorney, living wills, trusts), but from a financial perspective as well. When Wilder retired at 58, he made sure that he was set, which was why he didn’t need to make any bad movies to supplement his retirement like so many actors before him.

Second, Wilder was legally prepared once he received the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  More than five million Americans are living with it, and one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  This year alone it will cost our country more than 236 billion dollars.

The fact is dementia is happening more and more often in our country, and many people try to hide the diagnosis as much as possible. This is the exact opposite of what should be done.

If you or someone you know is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is critical that planning is done immediately (if not done beforehand). Once someone experiences complete dementia, any type of planning is extremely complicated and costly. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, make sure you move as fast as possible and get your documents in order.

Gene Wilder was, in many ways, the actor who made me laugh most as a child. I’ll never forget him, and I hope we can learn from his lessons even in death. If you or someone you know has questions related to Alzheimer’s or dementia, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or email me at alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

Why Do I Need a Living Will?

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Why Do I Need a Living Will?

You have the right to make decisions about how to live your life—and how you want to be treated at the end of your life.

A Living Will is a document to direct your medical care when you are terminally ill or injured and no longer able to communicate your wishes. Improved medical technology and treatments now create a distinction between quality of life and living. It is essential to express your own desires for treatment at the end of your life.

In New Jersey, a Living Will is called an advanced directive. Your advanced directive includes information such as the following:

  • Designation of a healthcare representative: Your healthcare proxy has a durable power of attorney to make end of life decisions for you. Careful thought should be given to this appointment. Speak with your representative to be sure they are willing to take this often stressful job. Clearly discuss how and when you would like your life to end.
  • Instructions at end of life: Communicating with family members when you are terminally ill is difficult and may be impossible. Take the time now to thoughtfully consider how you wish to be medically treated. When the advanced directive is needed, you have peace of mind and some certainty. Your family has the comfort of knowing your choices are being carried out.

It is important to work with an experienced attorney to prepare your advanced directive. Your wishes at the end of life are deeply personal. A well-crafted advanced directive records your decisions in a way that professional caregivers can respond legally and appropriately to your wishes.

As noted by the Rutgers Cancer Institute, general questions to consider for your advanced directive include:

  • Who should make medical decisions for you when you are no longer able
  • Directions about what kind of medical and life-extending aid you wish
  • Instructions on comfort, personal care and who should be with you

Ensure your Living Will is available when needed. Be sure your healthcare proxy and close personal friends have a copy of the executed advanced directive. Inform your family where a copy can be found and clearly mark the file.

Your wishes may change with time. When they do, speak with your proxy and your attorney to ensure your Living Will communicates what it needs to when the time comes.

If you have questions about a Living Will or updating an advanced directive, speak with a skilled estate planning attorney serving Union County.

 

 

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