Wills and trusts are fundamental components of a well-conceived estate plan. Ensuring that these documents are properly designed requires the skills of an accomplished trusts and estates attorney. That’s where E.A. Goodman Law, LLC comes in.
Our practice is dedicated to providing comprehensive estate planning services to individuals, couples, families, and business owners throughout New Jersey. Well-versed in the applicable trust, estate, and probate laws, we regularly represent clients concerning matters such as drafting wills, trusts, and other essential documents, as well as dealing with probate and estate administration.
When you consult with us, we will take the time to understand your circumstances and help you determine whether having a will-based estate plan or establishing trusts will best suit your needs. Preparing wills and trusts is what we do, and protecting your interests is our mission. Contact our Morristown office today to speak with an experienced wills and trusts attorney.
Reasons to Have Wills and Trusts in a New Jersey Estate Plan
A will, formally referred to as a Last Will and Testament, is a cornerstone estate planning document that:
- Declares how your assets will be managed and distributed after your death
- Names beneficiaries to inherit your assets according to a distribution plan
- Designates an executor to carry out the instructions of the will
- Arranges funeral and burial plans
Moreover, for those with minor children, a will is the only way to name guardians to care for them in the event of the incapacity or sudden death of you and the children’s other parent. Finally, another benefit of a will is that you can revise it at any time to align it with life’s transitions (e.g. getting married, buying a home, having children, accumulating assets, retiring).
Without a will, the court will intervene to distribute the estate assets according to the intestacy laws of New Jersey, which prioritizes spouses, children, and parents. Given that the state’s distribution plan may not agree with your wishes, it is crucial to formally declare your wishes in a will.
There are will templates readily available on the internet, but the wise move is to consult with a capable estate planning attorney. Form documents may not adhere to state law or provide you with the full legal protection you need.
Our firm regularly prepares wills for clients from all walks of life, as well as supplementary estate planning documents, such as powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives (e.g. healthcare proxies, living wills). When we prepare your will, you will have peace of mind knowing that your assets, your loved ones, and your financial future will be protected.
At the same time, you should know that there are disadvantages to will-based estate plans, not the least of which is that a will must go through probate. This is a court-supervised proceeding in which the instructions of the will are carried out by the appointed representative of the estate. If there is no will, the court will appoint an estate administrator, whose duties are pretty much the same as an executor.
In any event, probate is a public proceeding that exposes your estate to unnecessary scrutiny; and depending on the size of your estate, probate can be prolonged and costly. Finally, there may be estate tax and inheritance tax consequences that impact will-based estate plans. In sum, a will is a building block in a comprehensive estate plan, a plan that should also consider trusts.
Trusts Are Not Just for the Wealthy
One common misconception is that trusts are designed for wealthy individuals who want to shield their assets. All types of trusts can help to achieve several objectives for many estate planners, such as Medicaid planning, proving for a loved one with special needs, avoiding probate, protecting assets from taxes and creditor’s claims.
What is a trust?
A trust is a legal arrangement in which the person making the trust (the grantor), designates another party (the trustee) to manage the trust assets for the benefit of named beneficiaries.
Trusts are often created within wills to protect minor beneficiaries (inter vivos trusts), but there are a number of standalone trusts as well, such as:
Revocable living trusts are completely separate documents from wills, but the two are often used in tandem to ensure the decedent’s wishes are fully carried out. In short, living trusts take ownership of your property but allow you to continue managing it during your lifetime. The main benefit of these estate planning tools is that trusts avoid probate (although they must go through a trust administration phase) and can help to minimize estate taxes — a concern for less than 1 percent of estates under the present federal tax scheme.
Special needs trusts allow you to leave property to an individual with special needs (often a minor child) who receives public benefits such as Social Security Disability benefits or Medicaid. Because an inheritance could disqualify such an individual for these and other benefits, establishing a trust will preserve his or her benefit eligibility to provide income for basic needs.
Charitable trusts allow you to reduce the estate’s income and minimize estate taxes by combining gifting with charitable donations. For instance, in a charitable remainder trust, the property is transferred into a trust, a named beneficiary receives income for a set period, afterwhich, the remaining assets are given to the charity.
These are just a few of the types of trusts to consider. No matter what the size of your estate, trusts are effective for protecting your assets and providing for your loved ones, and this is the heart of estate planning. Trust E.A. Goodman Law to design a trust-based estate plan that enables you to achieve all your objectives.
Contact Our Experienced Wills and Trusts Attorney
At E.A. Goodman Law, we believe that wills and trusts are for everyone, but we also know everyone is unique. When you become our client, we will work closely with you to tailor an estate plan to your needs. The sooner you contact our wills and trust attorney, the sooner you can plan your financial future.