5 Reasons You Need an Estate Planning Attorney in Sea Girt, NJ

Many individuals surprisingly do not have an estate plan and have never consulted with an estate planning attorney.  In fact, many do not have a will, with even fewer having an estate plan.  This is partially due to the stereotype that estate plans are only for people with a high net worth or large amount of assets.  This is simply not true.  Estate planning attorneys should be consulted by every individual that have any assets, children, or family members.

Beneficial to everyone involved

Without some estate planning, family members have to handle the distribution of a loved one's assets, payment of taxes and funeral arrangements on their own. These tasks only make the grieving process that much more stressful and difficult.

Although it is tempting to try and construct an estate plan on one's own, hiring an estate planning attorney has enormous benefits to help prevent potential mistakes.  Here are the top five reasons why an estate planning attorney is essential to ensure a family is protected, the estate is properly taken care of and the assets are properly distributed.  An estate plan is more than a will that handles distributing assets, it helps the heirs pay less in estate taxes, fees and any court costs as well.

1. They Know estate planning laws

How a will and trust are constructed differ from state to state. The estate planning attorney can explain the required legal language that must appear in the estate plan in order for it to be valid.  The biggest mistake individuals make is in trying to construct their own estate plan from generic forms online, only for their family to find out after their loved one died, that it is invalid and they now have to go through the long process of probate.

In addition to specific language that must appear in the estate plan, specific signing requirements must be followed as well.  In New Jersey, the creator of the will must sign it, as well as two witnesses.  If someone is trying to create a living trust, there are many components involved and legal hurdles to overcome.  For example, the estate planning attorney is a necessary resource for explaining the difference between revocable and irrevocable trusts; what a grantor or trustee is; or if one should have a living or testamentary trust.  

It is important that one's final wishes are memorialized in a valid document that is carried out properly.  It is not worth risking one's life work and family's future over the wrong documents. Using an estate planning attorney ensures a positive outcome and a valid document.

2. Simultaneous death

Most wills of married individuals are created with the assumption that one spouse will pass away before the other.  Without the expert help of an estate planning attorney, this phenomenon of simultaneous death may slip one's mind and create chaos, especially if there are surviving children.  

Both spouses will name a guardian in the event of simultaneous death. The estate planning attorney can help decide what to look for in a guardian, and can even meet with a proposed guardian to review the process and responsibilities.  In addition to a guardian, one may need an additional person, called a conservator, to look after the assets of the children that they may inherit. This would be in effect until the children reach an age both spouses agree on and designate in the estate plan.

Trusts may have to be set up for the children, which then requires a trustee to be assigned.  Working with an estate planning attorney can be emotionally difficult at first when making these various decisions. However, most people report that once they know their children will be well taken care of if something should happen, they feel a sense of immense relief.

3. Help you avoid probate

Probate is a process that requires the court to assist family members when a loved one dies without an estate plan.  Even if a deceased family member has a will, the will must be filed with the court and the court oversees the distribution of assets.  

An estate planning attorney can help a family avoid the court process, unnecessary time and court fees by helping create the estate plan.  Probate can take about a year, sometimes lasting even longer. The process includes filing a probate case, designating an executor, notifying all heirs of the estate, consolidating all bank accounts, handling any outstanding debts and distributing the property.  

While probate can be a relatively painless experience, estranged family members may go through an incredibly stressful and time-consuming process.  If the will is challenged, or family members are arguing over serving as executor, the case can take significantly longer.  Working with an estate planning attorney to prevent probate can help to follow the deceased one's wishes and help the family members avoid a more negative experience than it has to be.

4. Remind you to update your will 

Estate planning attorneys are great at following up with their clients to see if any life changes occurred.  If there is an estate plan in place, then an estate planning attorney will know to contact the client every couple of years to see if they need to update the estate plan. This can involve making changes to include a new spouse, child or asset.

Updating an estate plan is important due to the possible complication that can arise. If an ex-spouse of the deceased is still on the estate plan as power of attorney or the deceased only listed one of their children, then it can complicate matters.  

5. Help draft additional documents

There is more than just a will in an estate plan, such as additional documents that concern the client's medical care and end of life care. An estate planning attorney will assist the client in preparing for the possibility of the client being incapacitated. This way, these documents will make sure to respect the client's desires.  

These forms include an advanced health care directive and the power of attorney.  Neglecting to include these forms and properly fill them out can cause confusion should a car accident occur resulting in a coma.  If the wish is to not be resuscitated, the hospital staff will not know and typically will continue with life-saving actions.

As stated above, estate planning attorneys are an invaluable resource for everyone.  Although estate planning attorneys deal with the idea of death every day, they strive to create ways for their clients to feel a little more reassured about the inevitability.  Knowing that their clients, and their clients' children and family are taken care of is at the heart of their work.

Call us at (732) 449-0449 for more information from Anthony J. Cafaro, P.C. or to schedule a consultation in our office in Sea Girt.

NOTE: This blog is for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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