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.

The Power of a Will

power of a will, wills, trusts, estate planning, union and hunterdon counties new jersey

The Power of a Will

Movies and television often portray wills as mysterious documents that guard hidden treasures over which many family feuds ensue. However, in real life, a will is a legal document containing your final wishes.

Depending on how you draft your will, the size of your estate and the number of heirs you leave behind, your legacy may very well be the stuff of daytime TV dramas. It is important to understand the power your will has while you’re alive and after you leave this world. If you have substantial assets and properties, the existence of your will may influence the behavior of future heirs while you are alive (see soap opera reference again). How effective your will is depends on how clearly it is written, whether it is drafted by an experienced attorney and whether it is updated often.

Assuming all of these criteria are met, your last will and testament has the power to accomplish the following tasks after you die:

• Ensuring your pet is taken care of — It’s true, you can leave funds aside, property and even an assigned caretaker to ensure your pet lives a happy life.

• Donating your assets to charity — Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to benefit from your wealth when you’re gone? Your will has the power to ensure such wishes are met.

• Dividing your estate up equally — In the event that you have more than one heir (e.g., a spouse and children), you can instruct to have your assets divided equally among everyone.

Disinheriting your expected heirs — Alternatively, you can leave your heirs nothing.

• Providing instructions should you become incapacitated — You can even include in your will instructions for family members about what they should do if you should become mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to answer for yourself.

The will of Henry VIII of England is one of the most famous examples of how powerful a will can be. In Henry VIII’s will, it named the succession of heirs to the house of Tudor. You might not realize it, but by creating a will and deciding who receives your assets, you are in fact creating a succession of sorts.

For assistance in drafting your will or with any other estate planning matter in Hunterdon or Union Counties, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., by email at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

The Last Will of Joan Rivers

joan rivers, estate planning, pet trusts, wills and trusts, new jersey

The Last Will of Joan Rivers

Comedy legend and TV personality Joan Rivers once told TIME Magazine, ““I ain’t afraid of death. I’m in show business, I’ve died a million times.” Sadly, the media icon passed away on September 4, 2014 while undergoing a routine endoscopy. The procedure, which involves an analysis of the throat while the patient is anesthetized, was carried out by two experienced physicians.

What ultimately led to the media icon’s death was a spur-of-the-moment decision by the operating doctors to perform a biopsy on a polyp-growth in Rivers’ throat. Many in the medical world have explained that surgery, especially on an elderly patient, should be performed in a hospital, not an out-patient care center.

 Medical malpractice suspicions aside, the following valuable estate planning lessons can be learned from the life and death of Joan Rivers:

· All surgeries have risks — Any type of surgery is invasive. Regardless of how young or old you may be, mistakes and unpredictable complications can arise. Remember, the procedure that ultimately claimed Rivers’ life was scheduled and routine. Joan drafted and signed her will at the Surrogate’s Court in New York on Nov. 16, 2011.

·  Power of attorney for health care makes tough decisions easier on loved ones — Prior to Rivers’ death she had a vital legal document in place: a power of attorney for healthcare. This document gave Melissa Rivers, Joan’s daughter, the power to make important decisions regarding her mother’s care if she became incapacitated or disabled. Eventually, with a power of attorney in place, Melissa made the decision to remove her mother from life support.

· You can ensure pets, as well as heirs, are taken care of after you are gone — Over the course of her more than half a century career, Joan Rivers amassed a fortune of $150 million. In her estate plan, Rivers’ left all her possessions to her daughter Melissa, her grandson Cooper and her four dogs. A pet trust ensures that your dog, cat, parakeet or other domestic animal is taken care of after you are gone.  An animal lover her whole life, Rivers’ once jested that her dogs were better than a husband, “Because they didn’t leave the toilet seat up”.

· Don’t forget charities — In her life, Joan Rivers supported many charities. Yet she also made sure that the charities she supported in life (Guide Dogs for the Blind, Jewish Guild Healthcare, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to name a few) received contributions after her death.

· Specify how your remains should be handled — You may think it a bit morbid to ponder your demise and how your remains should be laid to rest. However, whether you would like to be cremated or buried, it is important that you leave explicit instructions for your heirs. In keeping with the late comedienne’s wishes, Joan Rivers’ body was cremated in North Bergen, New Jersey.

By drafting a comprehensive estate plan, Joan Rivers ensured that her family and her dogs were well taken care of after her death. If you are thinking about setting up your own estate plan, now is the time to act. For assistance with a will contest or estate planning matter in North or Central New Jersey, contact estate planning attorney Alec Borenstein, Esq., at  alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-­236­-6457 at your convenience.

Woof Woof! Caring for Your Pet using a Pet Trust

Pet Trust in New Jersey

Pet Trusts: Taking Care of Furry, Finned and Feline Family Members

Caring for Pets

When New York financier Muriel Siebert passed away in August of 2013, she provided for a good friend in her Will—a long-haired Chihuahua named Monster Girl. Do you have a plan to care for family pets when you pass on?

According to the American Pets Products Association, more than 56 million American households own a dog and more than 45 million own a cat. A Los Angeles non-profit organization, 2nd Chance for Pets, estimates approximately 500,000 pets are euthanized in the United States each year after their owners become disabled or pass away.

Caring for a pet after the death of an owner is an increasingly common wish among families and pet owners in New Jersey and across the country. Dogs, cats and other pets offer unconditional friendship, a quality some people find only in their animal companion. Legally providing for your pet ensures they are cared for if something should happen to you.

Setting up a Pet Trust

Because animals are recognized as property, bequeathing money directly to your pet is difficult. Under New Jersey law, you can create a trust through your estate plan to provide for one or more pets. Here are some general points about setting up a pet trust for your animal companion:

Appoint a trustee: When you establish a trust for your pet, think about whom to appoint to administer the trust. Also consider a successor trustee if your original appointee is unable to carry out the task.

A caretaker: Appoint a caretaker for your pet. This could also be the trustee. The caretaker of your pet should be someone you trust to care for your family pet as you would.

Details: When setting up a trust to care for your family pet, be sure to set out the details of care. You can name the veterinarian, designate how often your pet should go to the vet, identify food and your end of life wishes for your pet.

Term and remainder: In New Jersey, you can fund a pet trust until your pet passes away or until the end of 21 years. Your trust document should designate where money remaining in the trust should go when your pet no longer needs it.

Talk to your estate planning attorney about the type of trust you should use to care for your pet. You can create a trust through your Will, or through a trust that springs into action should you become disabled during your lifetime.

Effective estate planning protects the long-term security of your loved ones. Make sure all your family members are taken care of—including your beloved pet. When you need knowledgeable answers about pet trusts or other estate planning questions—speak with an experienced law firm in Hunterdon County or Union County, New Jersey.

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