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The hazards of last minute estate planning

Many New Jersey residents postpone addressing their estate planning needs. For some, procrastinating will result in a failure to chart out one's wishes in time, and loved ones will be left to wade through the probate process with little concrete guidance as to what their lost family member would want. Some people, however, will have their estate planning needs placed under a spotlight when they learn of a terminal illness.

When an individual is aware that his or her time is limited, it can be difficult to focus on the sudden needs that arise. This is especially true in cases in which a high level of medical care is required. Having to divide one's attention between acute medical needs, spending time with loved ones and structuring an estate plan is simply overwhelming. In addition, making decisions while under this level of stress does not always yield a true representation of one's intentions.

There is another matter related to last-minute estate planning that must be addressed. If there is any chance whatsoever that one's final wishes might be challenged, creating a last-minute estate plan gives the dissenting party an open path to fight the matter in court. It could easily be argued that an individual facing his or her own imminent demise might be pressured into making estate planning decisions that are not in line with their true wishes. The result can be a long, stressful and costly legal fight that significantly depletes the assets that were intended to pass to one's heirs.

As with any significant life decision, the best way to approach estate planning is during a time with no added stress or emotional turmoil. It takes time and a great deal of thought to create the best possible estate planning package. When a New Jersey resident is faced with a pressing need to take care of these details before his or her final days, there is a high risk that the outcome will not be ideal.

Source: beforeitstoolate.sonomaportal.com, "Last minute estate planning", Eric Gullotta, Nov. 27, 2014

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