Are you avoiding estate planning because you don’t know where to start? Have you put off drafting a will, health care directive, power of attorney, or trust agreement because you don’t know what documents you might need for an estate plan? If so, meeting with a New Jersey estate-planning attorney can help clear up any confusion your doubts you might have about the estate planning process.
Seven Estate Documents to Discuss with Your New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney
- Last Will and Testament
The basic estate planning document everyone should have is a will. A will becomes effective upon your death. The will identifies your heirs and directs how the estate is to distribute property to your heirs. In your will, you may also name a guardian for your child to avoid court intervention. Without a will, New Jersey’s intestate laws make these decisions for you.
- Living Will or Health Care Directive
Advance directives, including living wills and health care directions, allow you to specify the medical and personal care you want to receive under certain circumstances if you cannot speak for yourself. You may also name an agent in the document who has authority to make decisions for you and/or ensure your wishes are carried out as stated within the document.
Many individuals have strong opinions or beliefs about life-prolonging or life-sustaining treatments. With advance directives, you can dictate your decision now so that there is no doubt what you want doctors to do or not to do in that situation.
- HIPAA Designation
A HIPAA designation allows doctors and other medical providers to discuss your health care with family members. It also allows family members to obtain copies of medical records and other protected health care information. A HIPAA designation is important for college students so that parents can access health care information about their child in an emergency.
- Durable General Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney allows someone you choose as your agent to conduct financial matters in your name. A POA that does not contain restrictions typically allows the agent to perform any financial transaction in your name that you could legally perform yourself.
When you add a “durable” clause, the POA remains in full force and effect even though you might become incapacitated for any reason. A durable general power of attorney can help avoid the appointment of a conservator by the court to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.
- Revocable Living Trust
Revocable living trusts are useful estate planning tools that some individuals use to avoid probate; decrease or eliminate estate taxes; and, protect property from creditors. Because the trust is revocable, you can modify or revoke the trust during your lifetime as you see fit. You may also serve as the trustee so that you retain control over the assets during your lifetime.
If you become incapacitated or upon your death, the trust becomes irrevocable. Your successor trustee distributes the property to the trust beneficiaries according to the terms you set for the trust.
- Beneficiary Designations
Some property, such as retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance policies, pass directly to beneficiaries outside of probate. However, if you fail to designate a beneficiary, the asset may be paid to your probate estate.
- Digital Assets Letter
Online financial accounts, social media accounts, email, and other online assets have become increasingly popular. You need to work with your New Jersey estate-planning attorney to ensure those assets are protected and distributed correctly to your heirs. Your attorney may advise you to attach a letter to your will notifying your personal representative of the location of the information, including logins and passwords, for digital assets.
Contact a New Jersey Estate-Planning Attorney for Help
The above list of estate planning documents is not an exhaustive list of the tools we can use to help you protect your property and your family. If you want more information about estate planning, contact New Jersey estate-planning attorney, E.A. Goodman for a consultation.
Posted in: Estate Planning