Many people in New Jersey may have the vague idea that they should have an estate plan but may have no idea where to begin. Estate planning can be complex, but there are some basic steps you can take prior to executing an estate planning that may help the process run more smoothly.
First, determine what your goals are for estate planning. For example, you may wish to pass valuables on to loved ones, plan for incapacitation or both. Next, decide who you want to benefit from your estate plan. This could include family, friends, charities or even your pets. Depending on their age, health and stage in life, some of your loved ones will have different needs than others, and these needs should be identified.
Following that, it can help to make an inventory of what assets you want to include in your will or trust. It is important to understand what assets might be placed at risk, for example, should you need to stay in a nursing home or if you have unpaid creditors. These risks may be able to be mitigated under certain circumstances.
If a person does not have a will or trust, they will be considered intestate upon their death and their estate will pass through probate. The probate process can be costly and can take a long time to complete. Moreover, the people the state identifies as your heirs may not be the people you would have chosen to inherit your estate. If this is of concern to you, it is important to include documents in your estate plan that will allow you to avoid probate.
Sometimes a person is incapacitated for days, weeks or even months before passing away. When estate planning, you should determine what kind of end-of-life care you want, as well as who you want making medical and financial decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make these decisions on your own.
Once you have made these important decisions, it is time to execute your estate plan. The proper documents will need to be drawn, titles to certain assets may need to be transferred and other legal requirements may need to be met to ensure your estate plan meets your wishes. Of course, this post only provides a brief overview of some steps to take while estate planning. There are other considerations that may need to be made depending on your specific circumstances. Working with an attorney is one way to identify what needs to be done to execute a comprehensive estate plan.