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Establish a complete estate plan

Some New Jersey residents may believe that estate planning is primarily about taxes. This belief arose when many estates were depleted by IRS regulations. However, with changes to the law, it is now estimated that only approximately 5,600 estates pay taxes in a given year. Still, even without taxation issues, estate planning is important to ensure that a person's wealth is distributed as desired.

Without an estate plan, chaos and conflict may ensue following a person's death. Even adult children may argue over who should get money or property. These conflicts become even more contentious if there's a second spouse in the picture. Some people may believe that their children are capable of dividing assets without assistance; however, that's unfortunately often not the case. The best way to avoid disputes is to leave an estate plan clearly delineating how assets and possessions should be distributed.

A complete estate plan may also address how to meet a person's medical needs. That includes a designation of who should make important medical decisions if necessary and may include whether the person wishes to be given life-sustaining treatment. Beneficiary forms are also an important part of the process, as some assets go to the designated beneficiary, not the person stated in a will. Some people will also include provisions regarding who should manage their assets and who will take over real estate, businesses or other complicated assets.

Estate planning can be confusing. A licensed estate law attorney may be able to assist by reviewing a person's entire financial history, determining needs and advising on the best course of action. Once an estate plan and beneficiaries are chosen, an attorney may be able to assist with drafting the necessary documents.

Source: Investing Daily, "Your Estate Planning Agenda", Bob Carlson, August 07, 2013

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