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Looking at as estate plan as an evolving document

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2022 | Estate Planning

Now, more than ever, it is apparent that life comes with many unexpected events. One never knows what lies around the corner, making it imperative to consider many what-ifs in life no matter a person’s age or phase in life. Illnesses, injuries and freak accidents do not discriminate and could occur to anyone. Thus, it is important to get one’s affairs in order no matter one’s age, career, marital status or whether they have children or not. Getting these wishes in writing is vital for residents in New Jersey and elsewhere, as it is a concreate way to protect property and dictate what will happen to property and assets following his or her death.

When it’s time to draft an estate plan

When it comes to estate planning, it is never too early to put a plan in place. While one could say it is never too late to establish an estate plan, the reality is that it could be too late, as one could pass without have an estate plan in place. Thus, it is important to get a plan in place even if one is young and believes that it is too soon. Now, more than ever, it is important to have a foundational plan in place. An estate plan is considered a work in progress, as it can evolve and get updated as life events occur.

The basics of an estate plan include creating a will and putting a trust in place. Once this occurs, modification can occur over time. It is important to look at an estate plan like a love letter to one’s heirs. Once one starts to envision their future, they can make considerations like the important people in their life, what charitable goals they have, how assets should be distributed and when, how and to whom these assets will go to. These details can be solidified by creating a trust and appointing a trustee. While this may not be an easy task, reframing one’s perspective, such as a love letter to one’s heirs, can help make it a less daunting task.

Property and ownership issues

When naming assets in an estate plan, ownership matters, as each type of ownership will get different treatment. For things owned outright, these should be treated with care. This is best done by assigning ownership for each item. For other assets, if it is considered liquid, it is more likely to be sold by the executor to raise cash. This may be an issue to address in the document. For property that is held jointly, those will go directly to the surviving joint tenant. If an asset is subject to a lien, they could either be sold off or paid off through the estate in order to retain the asset. Finally, assets, such as life insurance, pass directly to the named beneficiary. This holds true even if that differs from the person named in a will.

It can be difficult to think of one’s demise; however, getting an estate plan in place is an important step for one to take. This not only helps protect one’s current and future wealth and property, but it also protects the inheritances one intends to pass on to loved ones. Those considering an estate plan or seek to update a current plan should consider his or her legal options and what steps to take to protect the rights afforded to them.