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Domestic partners in New Jersey have estate planning challenges

Domestic partnerships whether same-sex or not require special considerations when it comes to estate planning in New Jersey. Unlike legally married couples, domestic partners who wish to pass assets to the surviving partner have to plan for federal taxes. In addition, estate planning may be particularly challenging if the couple has assets in excess of $2 million. A complex estate plan may be in order in such a situation, but it ensures that assets will be distributed according to each partner's wishes.

For starters, partners may benefit by reviewing the beneficiaries named on their retirement plans in order to make changes as needed. Otherwise, these benefits will likely go to whoever is named as beneficiary even if the will names someone else. In addition, domestic partners with adopted children may consider setting up a trust for each child to ensure that they will be taken care of financially if anything should happen.

When it comes to end-of-life planning, domestic partners will likely find it helpful to include documents authorizing each other to make hospital visits and health care decisions on the other's behalf. It may also be a good idea to ensure that living wills reflect up-to-date information. In addition, establishing durable powers of attorney for each other allows partners to make financial decisions if one of them becomes incapacitated.

In New Jersey and elsewhere, it is especially important for domestic partners to ensure that they can continue to provide for each other and their children after death. Without the proper estate planning documents in place, these loved ones may not be recognized when assets are distributed. Therefore, unmarried couples may find it beneficial to seek assistance with their estate plans so they can have peace of mind knowing that their wishes will be fulfilled.

Source: Ahwatukee Foothills News, Estate planning for domestic partners, Kim Devoss, Jan. 3, 2014

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