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 or call 908-236-6457 today.

Willy Wonka’s Final (Estate Planning) Lesson


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

The Casey Kasem Saga from an Estate Planning Perspective [UPDATED]

Casey Kasem’s Story

If you have been reading online, you have probably seen the Casey Kasem sad story unfolding right before your eyes.  Unfortunately, Mr. Kasem’s story can teach us how to prepare for situations like his using Medical Powers of Attorney or Advanced Directives in New Jersey.

Most of us remember Casey Kasem and his American Top 40 voice booming every Sunday morning.  When I think of music and my childhood, Casey Kasem is the #1 thought that comes to my mind.  My #2 thought is telling my uncle at the age of 9 that “I live for Bon Jovi” – but that’s another story.

Time marches on and Mr. Kasem is now 82 years old.  Unfortunately, we can learn a lot (from an Estate Planning and Elder Law perspective) from the story that broke over the weekend about Mr. Kasem, his wife, and his daughter.

You might have read the story of Mr. Kasem’s disappearance to Washington in the last couple of weeks.  Apparently he was “just on vacation” according to his wife, Jean Kasem.

Kerri Kasem, Mr. Kasem’s daughter, tells a different story.  According to Kerri Kasem, her father “had developed bed sores and infections in his lungs and bladder while in Washington.”

Judges in California and Washington agreed, and they ruled that Kerri should have control over her father’s medical care.  But that’s when things got seriously weird.  On Sunday, June 1, 2014, when an ambulance came to take Mr. Kasem to the hospital, Jean Kasem started throwing raw meat and citing biblical scripture as they took her husband away. [SEE UPDATE BELOW]

“In the name of King David, I threw a piece of raw meat into the street in exchange for my husband to the wild rabid dogs,” Jean Kasem told NBC News, citing Biblical scripture.

Medical Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives

The plight of Mr. Kasem, my iconic childhood music hero, can teach us a few things about Estate Planning and Elder law, especially in New Jersey.

There are a couple of planning tools that could have been used had Mr. Kasem been in New Jersey.  Most, if not every, state has similar tools, and therefore if you live in another state you can probably take advantage of similar estate planning tools.

Specifically, Mr. Kasem can use a New Jersey Medical Power of Attorney (or healthcare proxy) to name an agent to speak and act on his behalf in the event of incapacitation.  This agent can work with Mr. Kasem’s doctor to ensure he receives the best possible treatment.

Mr. Kasem can also create an Advanced Directive, which basically spells out his wishes in specific circumstances, e.g. which medications he would want to take, whether or not to keep him on life support, etc.  This Advanced Directive can also name an agent to act on his behalf if there are situations not enumerated in the Advanced Directive.

If Kerri Kasem had been in New Jersey, and she wanted to assume control over her father’s medical care without these documents (or even if Mr. Kasem named his wife as his agent to strip his wife of her rights), she could file a complaint to be appointed guardian and list the reasons for her filing.  The court would then decide what would be in the best interests of Mr. Kasem, in some cases appointing an independent conservator if the court would rule that neither wife nor daughter would act in Mr. Kasem’s best interests.

We can never know with absolute certainty what would have happened had Mr. Kasem been in New Jersey, but all we can do now is hope that he is receiving the best treatment possible so that he can fully recover.  If you have any questions about any of these estate planning or elder law concepts, please call Alec Borenstein at 908-236-6457 or email him at

Casey Kasem Update

According to CNN, new information has come to light about Mr. Kasem’s medical history.  CNN writes:

Casey Kasem has Lewy body disease, the most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s…

Three weeks ago, a California court awarded Kerri Kasem temporary durable power of attorney and health care directive and has ordered Jean Kasem to surrender Casey Kasem’s passport to the daughter. The California judge also ordered that Casey Kasem can’t travel anywhere without a court order until a doctor clears him.

One of Casey Kasem’s other daughters, Julie Kasem, and her husband, Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn, have said her father signed papers in 2007 giving them the power of attorney over his heath care in the event he was unable to make his own health decisions.

But Julie and Kerri Kasem and their brother, Mike Kasem, have contended since last year that Jean Kasem has prevented the three siblings from visiting their father.

Jean Kasem said in court papers last year that the three children “single-handedly and irreparably shattered” the couple’s lives by deploying public demonstrations and attacks in the media, according to CNN affiliate KCBS.

Kerri Kasem’s temporary conservatorship over her father is in effect until June 20, when another California court hearing is scheduled on whether to make the conservatorship permanent.

California clearly has similar laws to New Jersey, and Kerri Kasem is her father’s temporary conservator.  We should know more later this month.  Again, our best wishes are with Mr. Kasem and his family.


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