Estate Planning Lawyer Bergen County NJ
If you haven’t yet created a virtual estate plan, please connect with an experienced estate planning lawyer Bergen County, NJ residents trust. In today’s world, having a virtual estate plan in place is critically important. Some people may not think of establishing a virtual estate plan, and instead, opt for a traditional one on paper. Many people can benefit from having one. The only New Jersey residents who don’t need a virtual estate plan in place are most of those who are younger than 18 years of age and those who for whatever reason have chosen to remain electronically disconnected from the remainder of the world. A virtual estate plan offers many benefits, especially today where fraud and identity theft are common. If you are an adult and have so much as an email account and/or a social media login, you’ll want to speak with a knowledgeable Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer about creating a legally enforceable virtual estate plan.
Virtual Estate Planning An Introduction
A virtual estate plan can be drafted as a modern addition to any existing estate plan or one can be created as part of a new estate plan if you don’t already have one in place. An estate plan does not have to be done on paper. Essentially, a virtual estate plan will direct your estate administrator to treat your virtual assets, intellectual property, logins, and accounts in specific ways in the event that you either pass away or become incapacitated. It is an efficient way to add updates to an existing estate plan because the changes can be made more quickly.
Imagine for a moment that something unexpected happens to you and you’re no longer in a position to access any of your online presence as a result of accident, injury, illness, or death. While it is an uncomfortable thought, it is critical to have an answer to, since it can affect not just you, but your estate and any dependents you may have as well. Ask yourself who would you want to have access to any/all of your online accounts? Who would you NOT want to have access to any/all of your online accounts? Would you want to grant anyone the power to modify your online presence in any way or to benefit from any of your intellectual property stored online? How would you want your social media accounts to be treated? Your email? Creating a virtual estate plan with the assistance of the experienced team at Kaplan Law Practice, LLC will allow you to address these issues and any other issues raised by your online presence that could affect your loved ones, your assets, and your privacy in the event of your death or incapacitation. Any legal document like an estate plan should be secured. Making a virtual estate plan is beneficial because it includes additional layers of security so only authorized individuals can access it. Because the estate plan is stored online, it allows the people you authorize to access it from anywhere. It is more convenient compared to having a traditional estate plan.
Another important reason to ensure that an enforceable virtual estate plan is in place involves the administration of your broader estate. If any of your assets and accounts are primarily accessed online, your estate may have a difficult (and possibly impossible) time accessing those assets and accounts unless you put a virtual estate plan in place empowering your estate to be granted the access it needs to your online presence. As you can see, a failure to act now to ensure that someone has authority to act on behalf of your estate in this way and ideally has easy access to logins and passwords for critical accounts could significantly impact your loved ones down the road.
5 Reasons an Estate Plan Is Important
An estate plan goes further than a will. It can be composed of multiple documents, and it is much more comprehensive. What you choose to include in an estate plan depends on your unique needs. Your will is an important element of your estate plan as it outlines your wishes regarding your assets after your death. But an estate plan also dictates your wishes about your health and finances while you’re living. An estate plan can include a living will, a healthcare power of attorney and a financial power of attorney, which are valid only until your death. Preparing an estate plan while you are healthy and of sound mind is recommended, especially if you have family members who may be affected. If you’ve been putting off your estate plan, here are five good reasons to make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to get started.
Probate is the legal process of distributing your estate to your beneficiaries. The probate process can be long, and there may be legal hurdles that could affect when it can be completed. Another reason many people want to avoid probate is that it prevents heirs from accessing their inheritance right away. If you want to avoid probate, you’ll need to work with an estate planning attorney to deal with your assets before your death. A will doesn’t negate probate. A trust can. Your estate planning lawyer can help you navigate this process so you can avoid any issues that may come up during probate.
Reduce and Even Eliminate Estate Taxes
Depending on the size of your estate, your beneficiaries may have inheritance taxes. You will want to make sure your taxes are handled properly before your assets are passed down to your beneficiaries. If you do not do so, they may have to go through the inconvenience of figuring it out themselves. There are some techniques that can be used to reduce the burden on your heirs, but again, you must set these things in place before your death. To learn what strategies you can use to minimize your inheritance taxes, talk to an estate planning lawyer to assist you in structuring your estate plan.
Avoid a Mess
Modern families are often complex, with multiple layers. One parent may have adult children from one spouse and minor children from another. You may own a business with an unrelated partner. Estate planning avoids family fights and costly court battles over who gets what and how. When your family involves unique custody arrangements, this is especially important to settle very early on. For example, if you and your ex-spouse want to designate guardians for your children, you will have to come to an agreement. Another area that you need to consider is how you want your future healthcare decisions to be carried out and by whom. You choose who is in charge of your assets if you are incapacitated, not just when you die. Because there are so many scenarios and topics within an estate plan that must be considered, you should have a thorough discussion with your family and loved ones about your specific goals and how you want them accomplished.
Protect Your Assets
Estate planning protects your assets during your lifetime. You could choose from a variety of legal strategies to secure your assets and keep them away from the wrong hands. If you are in a professional career where you could be sued, your estate plan can keep your assets from being seized. Asset protection planning is a legal and upfront way to protect your assets, but it must be done before any lawsuit is filed. The last thing you will want to do is think of a plan to put in place at the last minute once an issue has come up. To learn about ways you can protect your assets, reach out to an estate planning lawyer and they will be able to give you suggestions.
Protect Your Beneficiaries
With estate planning, you can name the trustee for your estate plan, keeping it out of the hands of someone who is bad at managing money. If you have minor children, you can be assured of who is handling their needs and finances until they become adults. Your estate plan can also protect you in the event of a divorce, depending on how it’s set up.
An estate plan can also deal with your electronic assets and accounts. Talk to an estate planning attorney about your needs and goals.
Bergen County Estate Planning Law Infographic
When to Start an Estate Plan
An estate plan is advised to be started whenever a person begins to accumulate assets and build up their estate. This is something that generally begins for people in their 20’s and 30’s, and for some others a bit later. Many people think that estate plans are something that is supposed to be done when they get older, but starting this at an earlier age can make the entire estate planning process easier for people throughout their lives. An estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ from Kaplan Law Practice, LLC can provide the guidance and support that you need in drafting your estate plan. Our lawyers are skilled with years of experience in dealing with estate plans and can help to get yours done too. We understand the complexities and details when it comes to delicate estate planning and can also provide the guidance you need with handling these family and financial affairs.
Estate Planning is for all Tax Brackets
Numerous individuals believe that estate planning is only for those who are especially wealthy. This is not the case as anyone who has assets is advised to do an estate plan. By creating and finalizing an estate plan, a person ensures that their assets are transferred to those they wish to have them. Without an estate plan in place, the entire process is much more difficult for family members and loved ones who have to deal with the person’s estate. This means a potentially lengthy probate process and court dealings that may see turmoil arise in families and loved ones. A Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer is ready to sit down with you and complete your estate plan to make everything easier for both you and your loved ones. Lawyers from Kaplan Law Practice, LLC are awaiting your consultation and are more than ready to help you out.
What’s Included in an Estate Plan
An estate plan is more than just saying who gets what when you or a loved one passes on. While wills and trusts are some of the most important things included in an estate plan, there are also some other crucial things to consider and include. Power of Attorney is something that you will want to include in your estate plan. This is a designated person that you choose, usually a family member or close friend, who can make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to. There are different kinds of Power of Attorneys so when you speak with your Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer they can help answer your questions about the different types. Another crucial thing to include in an estate plan is guardianship if you have children. You will want to ensure that your children are taken care of by someone who is willing and trustworthy to care for them. Kaplan Law Practice, LLC lawyers can help you through the guardianship process as well and include it in your estate plan.
Differences Between Wills and Trusts
Most people are familiar with the terms “will” and “trust,” but are you aware of the differences between the two? Despite what some people believe, wills and trusts are not the same things, nor are they interchangeable. In some cases, it is advisable to have trust in addition to a will. If you have questions about the right estate planning tools for your particular situation, it is important to speak with a Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer who can give you the proper legal advice.
A Will Takes Effect After Death, and a Trust Starts Immediately
One of the main differences between a will and a trust is that a will does not become effective until after you are dead, whereas a trust is effective as soon as it is created and funded. A trust can also provide for the care of your assets in the event you are incapacitated. A will cannot do that — its purpose is to decide where your belongings and assets go after you are deceased.
A Will Is a Public Document
As a Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer can explain, a will becomes part of the court record when a probate case is opened. It is a public document, and anyone who requests copies of the probate case could, in theory, see everything written in the will. This means that anyone can see your assets with a detailed description, as well as who the beneficiaries are, and anyone can look at what you own and what your final wishes were. A trust is a private document that does not go through the same court process, so it remains confidential. This means no one has access to see what you own, who is the recipient, etc.
Trusts Allow You to Control the Distribution of Your Estate
With a trust, you have better control over the division of assets. Imagine you have a 19-year-old child who is slated to get $100,000 through your will. That means they will get it in one lump sum. With a trust, you can say that your child will get $10,000 per year until they reach a certain age, after which they can receive the full amount if they so desire. This allows you to safeguard your investments while making sure your loved ones receive something and are protected. A Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer can incorporate whatever stipulations you wish to have in any trust you set up for your beneficiaries.
Wills Go Through Probate
Wills must go through the probate process to verify they are valid. First, creditors are paid, and then assets can be divided as noted in the will. However, this process can take a significant amount of time — up to a year in some cases — and cost several thousand dollars. With a trust, assets are in the trust’s name and are not subject to probate.
Five Misconceptions About Estate Planning
I’m Too Young for Estate Planning
As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. The earlier you start your estate planning process, the easier it will be moving forward. Car accidents, plane crashes, and cancer have no respect when it comes to your age. You could die of food poisoning tomorrow, leaving your final wishes unwished.
I Don’t Have Enough Assets To Start Estate Planning
If you have a bank account with a positive balance and a car, no matter how beat up, then you have enough assets to start estate planning. Your Kaplan Law Practice estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ, can help point out assets you may not have realized were assets.
The Court Will Divide My Things up Equitably So I Don’t Need To Do Any Estate Planning
You don’t want to leave your final wishes to the court to carry out, especially if there’s someone you might want to disinherit. The probate process can take months or longer, depending on the complexity and size of your estate. The court may not divide things how you would hope. The best way to predict the future is to create it, and your estate plan is the best way to create the future you want for your heirs.
Online Forms Are Just as Good as a Lawyer
Online forms may give you food for thought and a starting point for getting your documents in order. However, generic forms will never be as good as a real live estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ, from Kaplan Law Practice. Your lawyer can tailor your estate plan to your exact specifications, explaining things to you in plain English while taking care of all the legalese you may not understand.
An Estate Plan Is Only To Decide Who Gets What When I Die
An estate plan does so much more than simply deciding who gets what when you die. Other purposes of estate planning include:
- Avoiding a lengthy probate process
- Eliminate family fights over the distribution of property
- Make sure your surviving family members are taken care of
- Choose a trustworthy executor of your estate
- Designate guardians for your minor children and make sure they’re cared for
- Protect your property, investments, and other assets from creditors
- Help your heirs avoid or reduce taxes such as inheritance, estate, or gift taxes
Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Planning
Do Some Estate Planning Research
A quick Google search of “New Jersey estate planning” will give you access to a huge body of information about your needs for a will, trusts, a durable power of attorney, an advance healthcare directive, and a healthcare power of attorney. Be careful to only follow the guidance of sites you can trust. An estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ, such as Kaplan Law Practice, may have solid information on their website.
Do Consider Your Executor and Trustee
You want someone level-headed and responsible in charge of your affairs. When you’re choosing the executor of your estate and trustees of any trusts you may have established, you first need to make sure that person wants to serve. If there is nobody in your life you would entrust these responsibilities to, you can designate an estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ, such as one from Kaplan Law Practice, to serve instead. An officer of a trust company could also serve as trustee.
Do Plan for Emergency or End-of-Life Care
It’s never too soon to choose a durable power of attorney or a healthcare power of attorney, nor is it too early to write an advance healthcare directive to keep on file with your primary care physician and a local hospital. A durable power of attorney assumes a fiduciary role when you are incapacitated by illness or injury. They make sure your bills keep getting paid and the money you are owed keeps coming in. Your healthcare power of attorney makes healthcare decisions for you, up to and including whether or not to end life-sustaining treatments like ventilators.
Don’t Forget About Your Pets
You don’t want your beloved basset hound going to the Humane Society upon your passing. Ask family members and friends if they would take him in the event of your death, then specify that in your will.
Don’t Think Estate Planning is One-and-Done
Your estate planning documents are living documents. As changes occur in your life, similar changes need to be made in your estate plans. Examples of when you should change your estate plans include marriage, divorce, the birth of children, and death of beneficiaries.
Don’t Try To Do Your Estate Planning Alone
While the Internet is a great starting point for your estate planning, it should never be the ending point. You want to consult an estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ, such as Kaplan Law Practice to ensure all your wishes are legal and executable in the case of your infirmity or death.
Bergen County Estate Planning Law FAQs
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is a branch of law that governs how you can make sure your estate, like your home, investments, money etc. ends up where and the way you want it when you pass.
Can I designate who will take care of my minor children in an estate plan?
Yes. In fact, this is one of the best ways you can choose to will care for your minor children.
What if I want to leave a portion of my estate to a charity or other organization?
An estate plan is precisely where you can name the organizations you want to support after your death.
Am I required to have an estate plan?
No, in New Jersey you’re not required to have an estate plan.
What happens if I die without an estate plan?
If you die without an estate plan you are said to have died intestate. It means the state of New Jersey will govern how your estate is distributed. For example, they might award custody of your minor children to their other parents even though you were divorced from them and would have wanted someone else to care for them.
Can you draft a will for me?
Yes, at Kaplan Law Practice we can draft all kinds of wills for you.
Someone mentioned ‘asset protection’ to me the other day. Is that part of estate planning?
In general, asset protection is a different field than estate planning. They do, however, overlap. Asset protection is designed to protect your assets while you’re alive while estate planning is your plan for the distribution of your assets after you pass.
I don’t think I’m wealthy enough to want an estate plan. What do you think?
Do you own your home and/or other real estate? Do you have a stock portfolio? How about a significant amount of money in savings or even in a savings account box? Any of these can be a reason to set up an estate plan. How about minor children? In an estate plan you can designate who will take care of them.
I recently heard about a virtual estate plan. What is that?
It’s a plan for your digital assets after you pass. For example, you’ve probably got a membership in a variety of online accounts from social media through bank accounts and maybe even cryptocurrency. Such a plan can save your estate money and help protect your reputation and your assets.
What Are The Main Alternatives to A Will?
Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship is one of the main alternatives for avoiding probate. If you hold property in a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship the property will pass to the surviving owner when one owner dies. The property will not pass through probate before going to the survivor.
However, tax costs may cause individuals to refrain from placing property in a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. Future taxes may be higher for the individual receiving the property, and families need to discuss the tax consequences of their estate planning decisions with an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Also, the individual who you believe will survive may die before you, and the property will still pass through probate administration upon your death. You do not want to disinherit anyone so it is important to consider the possible outcomes of every decision you make regarding your estate plan.
You may also name a beneficiary on every asset by using a beneficiary designation. “Pay on death” accounts and documents are also useful tools individuals can use to avoid probate administration. A revocable trust is still a better option if you do not want to use a valid will to avoid probate administration.
What Are The Differences Between A Will and A Revocable Trust?
Revocable trusts are often used as will substitutes. A revocable trust avoids probate, and this can save you time and money if you own multiple properties in different jurisdictions. One trust can manage your assets and avoid probate administration in each state where the properties are located.
No conservatorship proceedings will occur if you place your property in a revocable trust. If you fund the revocable trust then a conservatorship will be unnecessary because the trustee can manage assets for the decedent.
Revocable trusts require that you transfer legal ownership of all assets to the trust while you are still alive. When you obtain more assets during your life you need to place these assets in the name of the revocable trust.
What is Probate?
Probate administration may be formal or informal. Probate refers to the formal process by which a court identifies the assets owned by a decedent. The decedent’s creditors and beneficiaries must also be recognized so assets can be administered according to the rules of probate in effect in the State of New Jersey.
Your estate must pass through probate administration whether you have a last will and testament or not. Probate is a formal court process and many delays, waiting periods, and unexpected scheduling issues can make probate administration last nine to twelve months. An estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, New Jersey can help you learn how to avoid both formal and informal probate administration.
Who can help me create a will?
There are different ways to create a will, but two of the most common are to either by using a web-based service or by hiring a Bergen County estate lawyer. While the web-based option may be less expensive, often the will is one size fits all and does not take into account the individual’s needs, wants, and assets. An estate lawyer, however, has the expertise to take your unique situation into consideration and give you the best legal advice for your circumstances. Sometimes that advice can end up saving your loved ones money on taxes or other expenses when you are gone.
How do I know if I have all the documents I need for my estate?
While every estate is different, most should have a will or trust to detail what happens to assets such as property, money, stocks, jewelry or other assets upon your passing. Many people also desire a medical or health care power of attorney should they become incapacitated. Sometimes clients wish to create advance directives for medical decisions so their wishes can be honored and the burden of making those decisions is not left to loved ones. While these are some common documents used to protect one’s estate, each person’s desires are unique, so it is usually best to consult a Bergen County estate planning lawyer to see what documents you need.
What happens if I die without a will in New Jersey?
If you die without a will, typically the property will go to the next of kin, often a surviving spouse or partner. If the deceased does not have a next of kin or the next of kin cannot be found, the court will determine who should get the assets. This is why it is a good idea to have a will, no matter your age so you can determine how your assets and wealth will be divided up.
What constitutes a valid will in New Jersey?
In order to have a valid will in the state of New Jersey, you must have at least two witnesses to observe the signing of your will and they both must be over the age of 18. The witnesses will need to sign the will below your signature. You are able to register your will with the state government of New Jersey for a fee so they have it on file in the event of your passing.
When should you create a will?
All legal adults could benefit from having a will. Even if you are single and do not have family responsibilities, a will is still a beautiful way to take care of your loved ones by giving them the assurance that they are dividing your possessions in the manner you would have liked. It also gives them one less thing to worry about while they grieve.
Bergen County Estate Planning Statistics
According to the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), only 34 percent of Americans have an estate plan. This means that 66 percent of Americans do not have a will, living trust, or other estate planning documents in place.
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you don’t yet have a virtual estate plan in place, as part of your existing estate plan or because you don’t yet have an estate plan, please connect with the Law Offices of Joshua Kaplan today. Scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable Bergen County, NJ estate planning lawyer will help to ensure that your wishes are clearly articulated, enforceable, and ultimately honored.