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More on the Creation of Wills while Planning Your Estate

Near the end of last week, we took a look at some common estate planning questions (courtesy of Tara Siegel Bernard at The New York Times) related to the creation of a will. The most important part of estate planning, whether you are creating a will or advance care directive, is knowing what it is that you want to do with your assets.

To know that you have to ask questions. Sometimes it helps to know what questions you should be asking.

  1. I already have a will - do I need anything else?

    For the most part, that depends on what you are hoping to accomplish, but in most cases, the answer will be yes.

    Take advance directives and living wills, which is different than a will pertaining to assets. These documents allow you to exercise control over your end-of-life care in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself at a later date. You can either control directly, via something like a "do not resuscitate" order or give control to someone else should you become too ill or suffer a traumatic injury.
  2. What's the difference between a will and a revocable trust?

    Wills go through probate and enter the public record, while revocable trusts avoid probate and are private. For the most part, revocable trusts are created for the purpose of avoiding lengthy and costly probate battles. The choice you make will depend on your situation and, in most cases, is best talked over with an estate planning attorney.
  3. Can I avoid probate without a trust?

    There are certainly other ways to avoid probate in New Jersey, and across the country. By making provisions for the distribution of your property to certain beneficiaries, you can remove the need for a court to interpret your last wishes.

    For example, "payable on death" provisions allow for the transfer of assets held in a bank account. Meanwhile, items such as a 401(k) account or insurance policy often have an internal option for designating their contents following your death.

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