New Jersey residents dying without an estate plan subject their families to court-related delays and allow the state to determine who gets their assets. Most Americans know that having an estate plan is important, but less than half have actually undertaken the process of creating one. Estate planning does not have to be a monumental task; a few simple steps can formulate the basis for a simple or complex estate plan.
One step is to contact an estate planning attorney to draw up necessary legal documents, including a will to direct how assets are to be distributed upon death and revocable trusts to help avoid probate. Furthermore, a living will and powers of attorney convey individual wishes with respect to life-support and other medical issues and provide for financial or health care matters in the event of incapacity.
Individuals should determine the nature of their estate to assess their financial net worth, where assets are located and who is designated as a beneficiary for assets such as life insurance policies. They can also outline their goals in devising their estate. They should determine who they would like to inherit and how the assets should be conveyed.
Establishing potential tax liability based on the value of current and potential estate values is advised, as is working with a financial adviser to plan for the most advantageous tax savings if the estate stands to incur estate taxes. Individuals should re-assess their estate plan to reflect their situations, especially in the face of any significant life event, such as a new baby or a divorce.
Ignoring estate plans could cost New Jersey families precious time and money. Careful planning ahead of time through consultation with an estate planning attorney may not only give peace of mind but preserve estates and ensure that they pass according to the wishes of the deceased.
Source: Northwest Herald, “Five steps to take in devising an estate plan“, Patrick S. O’Connor, July 06, 2013