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.

Estate Planning From Prison

Going to prison may be the last thing on your mind. Yet the question remains, what would you do if you were suddenly incarcerated? Who would take care of your kids? Are your financials in order? Do you have an estate plan in place?

The reason it is vital for you to think about and answer these questions is because prison is a type of “incapacitation” for the sake of estate planning. After all, if you’re in prison, who will pay the mortgage, sign the child support checks, pay for nursing home care for your parents and handle your other responsibilities? Fortunately, by retaining an attorney, you can designate power of attorney to an individual who can then carry out these tasks on your behalf.

In the event that you are arrested, cannot pay your bail, and are convicted of a crime, you should have a power of attorney set up. Now, in a perfect world, you’ve already created your estate plan and you already named someone to be your power of attorney.

Let’s assume the world is less than perfect. So, what is power of attorney and how do designate a person to handle your affairs after you’ve been incarcerated?

Power of attorney is the authority you give to another person or institution (a bank for example) to look after your affairs if you should become disabled or incapacitated. Some of the advantages of a power of attorney include:

  • You choose your agent — Rest assured, you, and not a judge, get to choose who you want to be your power of attorney. Keep in mind that it is important for you to choose someone you trust.
  • Peace of mind — Designating a power of attorney can provide you and your family with peace of mind.
  • Can save you time and money — By having a power of attorney in place, you can save time and money that would be spent on court proceedings.

If you have not named someone to be your power of attorney, but find yourself in prison, your attorney can pass you the POA documents that need to be signed — the Department of Corrections allow a prisoner’s attorney to pass him or her important documents.

Whether you are facing prison time or have been diagnosed with a serious illness, an estate planning lawyer can help you get your affairs in order so that your family is well looked after. For more information on estate planning in NJ and NY, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at, or call 908-236-6457.

The Passing of an American Legend and the Fight for the Estate He Left Behind

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Born and raised in the heart of Mississippi on a cotton plantation in the 1920s, B.B. King is more than a legendary musician – he is a legendary American. Over the decades, his emotional performances on his guitar “Lucille” have inspired millions to play the blues, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.

More than anything in the world, King loved to play the blues on his “Lucille,” and you can see it on his face during his performances. In fact, he played and toured well into his late 80s, up until his health prevented him from performing at the level he felt his fans deserved. On May 14, 2015, B.B. King passed away in his Las Vegas home as a result of a series of mini-strokes stemming from his type-2 diabetes.

Unlike some musicians and celebrities, King made wise financial decisions during his lifetime. While he didn’t die a billionaire, he did have a $5 million dollar nest egg saved up, in addition to various forms of revenue through royalty and licensing deals.

Days after the blues legend’s death, his daughters began fighting over King’s estate with the executor named in the will, LaVerne Toney. King’s daughters have alleged the following:

  • Family members were purposely kept away from King in his final days.
  • King was mistreated medically.
  • His funds were siphoned off shortly before his death on May 14, 2015.

Two of King’s daughters, Patty King and Karen Williams, have been especially outspoken and claim that LaVerne Toney and B.B. King’s personal assistant, Myron Johnson, were poisoning the blues legend to hasten his death.

Toney and Johnson have denied the allegations, yet an autopsy must be performed to rule out foul play. The two sisters have also enlisted the help of attorney Benjamin Crump, who previously was involved in the Trayvon Martin case.

When planning your estate, it is important that you only name an individual whom you trust with your life to be your power of attorney (POA). The music and entertainment business is rife with stories about artists and performers who give POA to their business managers only to watch their hard-earned fortunes get pilfered away.

While this does not appear to be the case with B.B. King and LaVerne Toney (in fact to the contrary as they appeared to have a great working relationship), by naming a non-family member as the executor of his will, B.B. King ensured hostility from his 11 daughters.

Questions about estate planning? For experienced estate planning guidance in Union or Hunterdon Counties of New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at or call 908-236-6457 today.

Choose Wisely When Designating Power of Attorney – The Brooke Astor Estate

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Choose Wisely When Designating Power of Attorney – The Brooke Astor Estate

Brooke Astor was a New York writer, socialite and philanthropist who donated approximately $200 million dollars to numerous organizations including the Bronx Zoo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. For her contributions to the city, Brooke received many awards including the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1988 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Unfortunately, as Brooke got older, it became apparent that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Her son, Anthony Marshall, who resented her for abandoning him in English-style boarding schools as a youth, quickly swooped in along with her estate attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr., and swindled her out millions.

Brooke’s other relatives have explained that eventually her condition deteriorated so severely that she could no longer recognize family members. In addition to inducing his mother to amend her will several times, Mr. Marshall gave himself a $1 million retroactive raise for managing his mother’s estate.

On Oct. 8, 2009, after 12 days of deliberation, a jury in State Supreme Court in Manhattan convicted Mr. Marshall on 14 of 16 counts, including first-degree grand larceny for giving himself a $1 million retroactive raise.

Additionally, Mr. Morrissey was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy and of forging Mrs. Astor’s signature on an amendment to her will. The jury found that Morrissey and Marshall had taken advantage of Mrs. Astor’s failing mental health to gain control over her fortune. In 2009, both men were sentenced to one to three years in prison; Marshall served only 2 months due to his failing health.  In November of 2014, Anthony Marshall passed away at home.

Brooke Astor could have prevented the legal mess that ensued after she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease by giving power of attorney to a more trustworthy person. For many years she had a strained relationship with her son Anthony; an individual who resented her well into his adult years. Yet for some reason, she gave him power of attorney.

If you are planning your estate, it is important that you sit down with an experienced lawyer. He or she can go over issues like power of attorney, living trusts, etc., and explain which mechanisms are best for your situation. For more information on estate planning in Hunterdon or Union Counties, New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., by email at or call 908-236-6457 today.

What is a Power of Attorney? How Can it Help?

What is a Power of Attorney? How Can it Help?

You make decisions each day about your finances and your healthcare. If a day comes that you are injured or incapacitated, who will make decisions on your behalf?

In New Jersey, a Durable Power of Attorney is an important tool for safeguarding your interests and your health in the event you are unable to do so yourself. While you may assume your spouse or a family member can take care of your affairs, very real problems can arise that require someone with designated legal authority to protect your concerns.

In our state, there are two documents to appoint representatives who will make decisions for you. These documents include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney authorizes your agent, or attorney-in-fact to transact financial matters on your behalf. This includes paying bills, buying and selling property, handling investments and making important financial decisions in your best interests.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (or Living Will): Signing a proxy directive allows you to designate another person to make decisions about healthcare on your behalf. It is the responsibility of your proxy to make decisions when you are disabled, incapacitated or too ill to make decisions on your own. If you have a Living Will, a healthcare representative is charged with carrying out your wishes at end of life.

Choosing your representative

Your financial and physical health depends on the ability of the persons you appoint to represent your interests when you are incapacitated.

While you may appoint the same person to make financial and health decisions on your behalf, you need not do so. Some essential qualities of anyone you select to protect your interests in either sphere include:

  • Trustworthy
  • Responsible
  • Understanding of your wishes and proclivities
  • Desire to ensure you and your estate are protected
  • Able to make difficult decisions under significant stress

In New Jersey, your durable power of attorney can be written to become effective when you are injured or unable to make decisions for yourself.  This is called a Springing Power of Attorney, which springs into existence in the event of incapacity.  We don’t generally recommend these kinds of Powers of Attorney because it’s not easy to prove incapacity.  Two (or more) doctors will have to sign off on your incapacity and it’s often time consuming when time is of the essence.

Now is the time

These essential estate planning tools are not just for the elderly. All adults over age 18 need a durable power of attorney. No one knows when a disabling accident or illness might occur. In the event you become incapacitated without a durable power of attorney, a court must put a guardianship in place.

A court-appointed guardian may not be an individual you would have chosen to represent you. Guardianship actions can be lengthy, expensive and may not serve your future, or your estate, as you would have wished.

When you have questions about creating your durable power of attorney in North or Central Jersey, speak with an experienced, local New Jersey estate planning law firm.  To learn more about how a Power of Attorney can help you, please email Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm at or call 908-236-6457.

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