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Morristown Estate Litigation Blog

New Jersey elder law: POA agent limits

Setting up powers of attorney is part of a good estate plan. Knowing that one has one or more people assigned to handle health care and financial affairs in the event that one no longer can for him or herself due to age or infirmity can grant great peace of mind. When it comes down to it, though, there are POA agents who may try to overstep and abuse the power entrusted to them. New Jersey residents who believe this is happening to their loved ones may turn to an elder law attorney for help.

A POA can be very detailed and cover a lot of ground or it can be fairly limited. It all depends on how it is ultimately written. No matter how the final document comes out, one thing is clear, the assigned agent or agents do not have unlimited power. There are certain things a POA agent is prohibited from doing.

Estate litigation when there is no estate plan

When you lose a loved one, the stress of closing out his or her estate can feel overwhelming. If no estate plan was put in place, you and any other surviving family members or friends of the deceased may find the probate process in New Jersey to be too much to handle. This is especially true if the lack of planning leads to estate litigation.

When a loved one dies intestate, all his or her assets are up for grabs. Family members may end up fighting about who should get what and who should be the executor. It happens all too often.

Who pays for estate litigation?

You were assigned to serve as the executor of a loved one's estate. You go about your business, getting everything ready for distribution to beneficiaries, when all of a sudden the claims start piling in against the estate. Estate litigation is unavoidable, but how will you pay for it? Whether the probate and estate administration process is being completed in New Jersey or elsewhere, you may be able to utilize estate assets to pay for litigation.

Closing out an estate should be a pretty straightforward affair, right? You'd think so, but that is not always the case. Some people die without estate plans in place. Some people leave behind wills that may be challenged. Some people leave behind financial messes that must be resolved before beneficiaries see anything.

Does estate planning have to involve trusts?

When making preparations for what should happen to one's assets in the event of death, one may easily get overwhelmed. Most New Jersey residents know that they need a will. Does estate planning have to involve trusts, too?

The truth is, not everyone needs a trust. It all depends on the complexity of one's assets, one's goals and any special family needs. Those who are not sure would be wise to seek legal counsel on the matter.

Plan for kids now to avoid contested guardianships later

You are at a stage of life when you have young children at home. You would do anything and everything for them. Have you considered what would happen to them if you were no longer in the picture? While the vast majority of parents in New Jersey do not want to think about their own incapacitation or death, when you have minor children, planning for what will happen to them if you die or are no longer capable of taking care of them can help prevent issues later -- like contested guardianships.

No parent who is actively involved in his or her children's lives wants to be taken from them while they are still young and growing. It happens, though, all too often. When it does, if there are no directions for where the children should go, the court may give them to the state, or another family member or friend trying to seek guardianship. If you want to have a say in who will raise your children if you cannot, you have to have a plan in place.

New Jersey estate litigation: What to do with the house?

If a loved one passes away without a will or trust, it is all too common for family members to fight about what to do with assets. In New Jersey and elsewhere, one of the most significant assets people have when they die is their home. Changing the deed to a house is not necessarily difficult, but if beneficiaries are fighting over the property, estate litigation may be the only way to resolve the issue. 

How does one go about changing the deed to a house after a loved one dies? This is something that can be done at the county assessor's office if there is a will or trust document in place. If no estate plan exists, the matter must be processed in probate court first before any party can attempt to make the deed change. 

How to care for estate planning documents

It is paramount to create a will and form a thorough estate plan early on in life. One recent survey conducted by found that approximately 40 percent of American adults have a will. One aspect even more shocking is that only 36 percent of parents of children younger than 18 have a will. 

Once you create a will, you will already be far ahead compared to most everyone else. However, part of having a reliable estate plan means it is easily accessible. You want to protect these documents, and here are the steps for doing this: 

When mental capacity is questioned, estate litigation may follow

Losing a loved one is never easy. Getting through New Jersey's probate and estate administration process just makes everything more difficult. Estate plans are made and changed, often many times over. When certain decisions or adjustments are made that do not make sense to family members, some may choose to question the testator's mental capacity and challenge will or trust documents in court. In such cases, estate litigation may not be avoided. 

Do you believe that something doesn't seem right about your loved one's estate plan? It is okay to feel that way, and it is okay to question it. No one should make you feel bad about wanting clarification and understanding. There is no harm in questioning what prompted the decisions or adjustments. The harm might come from just letting it go.

Estate litigation: When a trustee is not trustworthy

Your loved one died. You are doing the best you can to grieve and move on. This individual left you and your family a trust with assets that are supposed to be, over time, distributed according to the trust plan. A trustee is in charge of doing this, but due to certain actions being taken, you do not believe him or her to be trustworthy. In New Jersey, estate litigation may be the only way to resolve the matter. 

You want to believe that an individual assigned as a trustee would be worthy of the post, and that he or she would do everything possible to make sure beneficiaries are receiving their inheritances as intended. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. There are trustees who take advantage or make bad decisions. 

Signs your parents might need a power of attorney

Your parents raised you, taught you right from wrong and shared with you their wisdom. This is why it can be so difficult for you and other New Jersey residents to see your parents age and lose some of their mental faculties. Whether your elderly parent is in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or simply has trouble keeping up with ever-changing technology, the time may come when he or she becomes vulnerable to financial predators.

There is no shortage of scammers who target the elderly and mentally incapacitated. Many are con artists who would attempt to trick your parents into giving their money to a false charity, sweepstakes or home improvement project. Others run complicated phone or internet scams, using threats or fear tactics to convince their targets that they will face legal or financial consequences for not paying up. Some might even be people your parents trust, such as a caregiver or family member.

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Thomas N. Torzewski, LLC

Torzewski & McInerney, LLC
60 Washington St
Suite 104
Morristown, NJ 07960

Phone: 973-532-2868
Fax: 973-359-0077
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