Most tasks that people find onerous can be made easier by taking a step-by-step approach. This is true for purchasing a house, adding to one's family or planning a vacation. It is also true for estate planning, and many in New Jersey find it helpful to break down the process into simple steps. The following outline offers guidance on the matter, but it is important to note that each individual or family will have a unique set of needs, and the basic steps chosen should reflect those goals.
For those in New Jersey who have amassed a significant volume of wealth, a higher level of estate planning is often required. Once wealth has surpassed the estate tax exemption amount, currently $5.43 million per individual, more complex asset protection strategies are necessary. A solution that can work for many families lies in an intrafamily loan.
When an individual is able to attain a high level of financial success but does not come from generational wealth, a lack of knowledge concerning complex estate planning is sometimes an issue. Many New Jersey families who have amassed first generation wealth are concerned about how to pass that wealth on to their children, but few take an approach that goes beyond that simple transfer. When it comes to wealth preservation, a long-term strategy is the best possible approach.
When many New Jersey residents consider their estate planning needs, they focus on traditional types of assets. We think about retirement savings, investments, cash and property. Few people take the time to consider how less tangible assets, such as those that exist in the digital realm, should be factored into the process. However, in today's technological world, even a simple estate plan should address digital wealth.
For those in New Jersey who completed their estate plans many years ago, a sense of security is often present. These individuals and families know that they have taken the steps needed to ensure that their accumulated wealth will pass on to their chosen heirs as intended. It is important to note, however, that many legal changes have taken place over the years, making it important for individuals to conduct periodic estate planning "check-ups" to ensure that their needs are still being adequately met.
Many New Jersey residents have taken proactive stances toward their estate planning needs and have had their documents in order for many years. This is admirable, especially considering the number of people who fail to address asset protection needs -- many of whom die without having any plan in place. However, simply completing the estate planning process is not enough to ensure that the highest level of protection is in effect. In some cases, estate planning tools become obsolete over time.
For many in New Jersey, the main focus of planning one's estate is to ensure that loved ones receive the inheritance that is planned for them, without incurring heavy taxation and outside of the probate process. For those residents who are unmarried and do not have children, estate planning may be structured around a different focus. Many forget that an important function of estate planning can have an impact while an individual is still alive.
Completing one's estate plan provides a wonderful sense of relief for many in New Jersey. Once the distribution of assets has been structured and all incapacitation documents are in place, many people rest assured that they have adequately prepared for the inevitable. Often, however, there are holes within a given estate planning package. For many, one of the most frequently overlooked matters involves how a personal belongings will be passed on to loved ones.
One of the most difficult topics for a New Jersey family to address is how to create an estate plan that allows assets to pass to children without allowing those children to squander their inheritance. For one, tackling this matter requires parents to acknowledge that their child or children are not currently able to make solid financial decisions, and may not possess those skills for some time to come. When considering how to best provide for children without allowing them to squander their inheritance, there are several estate planning options to weigh.
A great deal of focus within estate planning is centered on the best way to transfer assets to children and grandchildren after the death of a loved one. For couples in New Jersey without children, a different estate planning approach is often taken, and the focus becomes how to best ensure that one's own needs are taken care of in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury. It is one thing to consider how one would like to be cared for in such circumstances, but another to actually structure a plan to make sure that one's wishes are followed in this most important regard. This aspect of estate planning is often overshadowed by a focus on passing on assets and avoiding probate.