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Understanding various estate planning tools

For many New Jersey residents, the process of putting together a set of estate documents is a source of stress. This is largely due to the sheer volume of available choices. When confronted by the range of options, many feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin. However, everyone should rest assured that there is a combination of estate planning documents that can meet any need.

Many people begin with a simple will, which can address the designation of heirs and the assets that they will receive. Moving beyond a will, some individuals will choose to make use of various trusts to pass their wealth on to their chosen heirs. A trust has the advantage of keeping one's estate out of probate, which saves money, time and allows the family to keep the details of the estate private.

Other tools focus not on the disposition of assets after one's death, but how decisions might be made in the event that one becomes incapacitated through illness or injury. These documents include a durable power of attorney to grant the authority to make financial decisions, and a medical power of attorney to outline who is authorized to make one's medical decisions. It is also possible to draft a document outlining one's wishes in regard to the disposition of their remains.

The volume of available documents is part of what makes estate planning such a flexible process. However, it can also lead many to feel intimidated at the prospect of planning their own estate. For those in New Jersey who are unsure of where to begin, it may be time to sit down with an attorney who is well versed in estate planning to find out which combination of documents is best suited to their own unique needs.

Source: wcfcourier.com, "Estate planning saves later heartache", Kathy Martin, Sept. 22, 2014

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