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Ocean County Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning and family disagreement

Handling estate planning matters can be hard for different reasons, but some people have an especially difficult time when it comes to setting up an estate plan. For example, some people have a lot of uncertainty over how to distribute their assets, and some may worry about how their decisions will affect those they love. In some families, there is a lot of drama and disagreement, such as sibling rivalries and estranged family members, and it can be particularly hard to approach an estate plan in this environment. However, it is especially vital to make sure that your estate is set up properly if you are facing these difficulties in your own family.

There are many different aspects of an estate plan to consider, whether you set up a will or any type of trust. You should think about how your assets will be divided among beneficiaries and who you will place in charge of the estate. You should also think about how this could affect family members such as children, grandchildren and other relatives. Sometimes, talking to those you love about your estate plan can provide a clearer understanding of how you should move forward, but it may be best to make these decisions on your own.

Why should I appoint a successor guardian?

If you have appointed somebody to be the guardian of your children in the event you and your spouse die, you recognize that life can throw you a lot of curveballs and that you should be prepared for the worst. But what if your guardian candidate dies before you do or is otherwise unable to take on the task of guardianship? To address these eventualities, you should consider appointing someone to be a successor guardian in New Jersey in addition to your primary guardian.

A successor guardian is someone you choose to be the guardian of your children in the event that your primary guardian candidate is not available for the job. There are many reasons why a guardian candidate, even if that person was willing to be named as a guardian at first, will not be available to care for your children. In addition to perhaps dying before you or both of the parents of your children, a guardian may become disabled, change his or her mind, or become financially unable to care for another person.

Why is it important to have a power of attorney in place?

If you are a New Jersey resident over the age of 18 and you do not already have a power of attorney, you should think about working to get one in place before it is too late. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone that you designate the authority to make decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated. According to U.S. News and World Report, these decisions can pertain to both financial matters and health care treatments. 

You may associate powers of attorney with the elderly. However, both young and old alike have the potential to become incapacitated, either suddenly or gradually. For example, brain damage from a severe head injury could cause incapacitation at any age. It is not unheard of legal disputes to arise over medical decisions made on behalf of a relatively young person who becomes incapacitated due to trauma. 

Understanding a special needs trust

If your child is one of New Jersey’s numerous special needs children, you may have heard about special needs trusts, but do not really know what they are or what they do. Basically, a special needs trust is one you establish for the benefit of your child so that money will always be there to pay for the care (s)he needs throughout his or her lifetime, even if (s)he outlives you.

By naming yourself as the trustee of your child’s special needs trust, you maintain complete control over all the assets you place into it, just as you do now. The difference is that the trust now owns those assets instead of you and/or your child. In this way, since (s)he in no way owns the trust assets himself or herself, (s)he remains eligible for both state and federal funding and other benefits, not only those (s)he receives now, but also those that may become available in the future.

Changing the executor of an estate

You may have numerous challenges in front of you if you are creating or revising an estate plan. For example, you might have a plethora of options to choose from and you could be unsure of what is best for you and those you love. Or, perhaps you are not familiar with how some aspect of the process works and you are worried about taking on additional responsibilities. For example, you may believe that someone you have decided to name as the executor of your estate is no longer capable of carrying out these responsibilities, or you may choose to change the executor for some other reason.

Many people list their spouse as the executor of the estate, and in the event that they file for a divorce, this may require them to identify a new executor. Or, someone may pass away or become incapacitated, rendering them unable to perform this important role. Sometimes, people may simply change their mind because their relationship with the executor has fallen through or they have found someone who they believe is a more suitable candidate for taking on these important responsibilities. We understand that some people may feel overwhelmed by these tasks, and it can certainly be a stressful situation.

Discussing guardianship with your family

If you have a loved one who is unable to take care of themselves, you could be dealing with a lot of uncertainty and you may be worried about which avenue is best. Our law office thoroughly understands how challenging life can be for people in this position and those they love as well. It is important for you to thoroughly go over all of your loved one's options and help them as much as you can. Sometimes, guardianship is an ideal way to ensure that your loved one receives the care that they deserve. However, this is a major decision and it may be helpful to talk about various options with your family.

Whether your adult child, sibling, parent or spouse has found themselves in this position, you should approach the guardianship process carefully. Finding the right guardian is extremely important and this can be a difficult decision. Whether you have a number of potential guardians in mind or you are unsure if one person is capable of handling the requirements that they will be taking on, the decisions that you make in this regard will have a significant impact on your loved one's life.

Financial power of attorney: not just for end-of-life matters

Every New Jersey resident over the age of 18 should make preparations for powers of attorney. However, according to a survey the unfortunate truth is that only 53 percent of adults in the United States have a power of attorney in place. The good news is that for Americans over 72 years old, 83 percent have granted this authority. Then, why is the general number so low? That is because millennials lag behind, with just 41 percent creating a power of attorney.

One potential reason for this disparity is the commonly held belief that a power of attorney is only useful for the elderly. Because of this, many Americans wait until much later in life to have these documents drafted. By doing so, however, they expose themselves to risks that might have been easily mitigated by granting the appropriate authority via a power of attorney.

Guardianship and a child's health care

There are many factors to consider with respect to guardianship, whether guardianship is set up for an adult who cannot care for themselves or a child who is in need of a guardian. Guardians can be authorized to manage many facets of a person's life, such as their finances and legal matters. Moreover, a guardian can also be authorized to make health care decisions on behalf of the ward, and this can be especially important for some people with significant medical needs. Someone who has been appointed guardianship of a minor has an important responsibility and they should carefully handle all relevant issues while understanding their obligations.

When it comes to a child's medical needs, guardians play an important role in the child's life. The decisions they make can have a significant impact on the child in terms of their physical health and psychologically as well. Whether you are looking into appointing a guardian for a child that has not reached adulthood, you have been assigned this responsibility or you are worried that a guardian is not living up to his or her responsibilities in this regard, it is critical to understand which options may be on the table when it comes to the guardianship of a minor.

The importance of advance directives

Advance directives are essential components of any estate plan. While many of these documents relate to what will happen when you pass away, advance directives relate to what will happen when you are still alive but need someone else to make decisions on your behalf. 

Even if you are still fairly young, you still need to create a thorough estate plan. You never know when tragedy will strike. By getting advance directives in place well before anything happens, you can have peace of mind if something unexpected does occur. 

Removing your former spouse from your estate plan

We know how difficult ending your marriage can be, and some people have an especially difficult time during and after the process of divorce. For example, those who have a high net worth may face significant financial hurdles and parents may have a hard time as a result of legal issues related to their kids (child support, custody and so on). There are many things to take into consideration once your marriage has come to an end and some people may forget to think about all of the different ways in which their life will change after divorce. For example, some people may have an estate plan which includes their former spouse and it is vital to revise your estate plan after a divorce for a number of reasons.

If your spouse is included in your estate plan as a beneficiary and you do not make revisions, once you pass away, they could receive your property even though you no longer want them to. There are other reasons why estate plan revision is so important after a divorce. For example, your former spouse may have the ability to manage your finances in the event that you become incapacitated and make critical decisions related to medical care if you fail to remove them from your estate plan.


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Jackson, NJ 08527

Phone: 732-994-6092
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