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Morristown Estate Litigation Blog

Estate planning: Why you should do it

Depending on one's state in life, thinking about end-of-life matters may not seem all that important right now. The truth is, all adults in New Jersey, regardless of age or financial situation, should consider having an estate plan. Here are a few reasons why going through the estate planning process now is a wise decision.

Reason number one is: to protect oneself. No one knows when incapacitation or death will strike, and without an estate plan in place, one is basically giving up his or her voice. Who will make one's medical and financial decisions? How will property be divided to beneficiaries? The only way to have a say in such matters is to have a written and legally binding plan in place and make sure loved ones know that it exists.

New Jersey estate litigation: The Aretha Franklin case

Few New Jersey residents have the same level of assets music icon Aretha Franklin had when she died. Still, her case is one everyone can learn from. She is said to have died intestate -- without a will or trust. This means that probate is necessary and estate litigation is a very real possibility, which could drag out the administration process.

According to a recent report, Aretha Franklin left an estate valued around $80 million. She has four adult sons to whom the estate will ultimately be distributed, but only time will tell how that will all work out in the end. Without a trust in place, there are no tax protections, meaning roughly $27 million will go directly to Uncle Sam. If the singer had any debts, those will need to be paid and who knows how many people will come forward trying to claim rights to portions of her estate.

New Jersey elder law: Caring for Tim Conway

Tim Conway is known for the various roles he has played on television since the 1960's. Now, at 84 years old, he is battling dementia and requires skilled nursing care 24 hours a day -- which he is currently receiving at what his daughter calls an excellent facility. His wife, on the other hand, wants him moved to another care center. Who will get their way? This kind of situation is often seen by elder law attorneys in New Jersey and elsewhere.

In the Conway case, Tim's 56-year-old daughter has asked a judge to grant her guardianship. She does not agree with his wife's choices about his care. She claims that he needs assistance in every possible way and that moving him to the facility his wife wants him at will ensure he is not receiving the care he requires.

DA's last minute will change led to estate litigation

A district attorney in a neighboring state died from cancer in 2016. Less than two week's before his death, he changed his will. This resulted in his mother pursuing estate litigation in an effort to get the new will thrown out. Such legal action may also be pursued in New Jersey for individuals dealing with the same type of situation.

According to a recent report, the man's new will essentially cut out his mother and left everything to his children and wife. In his previous will, which was written in 2008, his mother and other family members stood to inherit $900,000. His mother claims that his widow manipulated him into signing a new will in his last days. His wife disputes this claim.

New Jersey estate planning: Power of attorney basics

A power of attorney grants a designated individual the right to handle one's affairs in the event that he or she is not in the position to do it for himself or herself. It is a powerful tool to have in one's estate plan and can be created with the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Here are a few things about powers of attorney, of which New Jersey residents may not be aware.

A power of attorney, just like any other legal document, cannot be signed by a person who is not in the right mindset. Any individual deemed legally incompetent cannot sign a power of attorney. If he or she does, it may be invalidated in court.

What does undue influence mean?

If you are someone who was shocked to find out what bequests and provisions your deceased New Jersey parent’s will contained, you may be wondering how in the world (s)he made such bequests. They do not seem to sync with who (s)he was and how (s)he normally acted. Before you conclude that you did not know your parent at all, consider the possibility that (s)he was under someone else’s undue influence at the time (s)he made the will.

A person must have a sound mind when making a will. What this means in New Jersey is that when your parent executed the will, (s)he had to exhibit all of the following:

  1. General knowledge of the nature and extent of his/her assets
  2. General knowledge of who his/her natural “objects of bounty” were, i.e., children, grandchildren, etc.
  3. Specific knowledge that (s)he was making his/her will
  4. Freedom from delusions or influences that would cause him/her to make unexpected or unusual bequests

New Jersey estate planning: Taking care of your pet

Many New Jersey residents enjoy the companionship of animals. These loyal friends are there during some of the roughest times in life offering love, support and comfort. It is normal to want to make sure that one's pet is taken care of in the event of one's incapacitation or death. It is possible to do just that when going through the estate planning process by setting up a pet trust.

For pet owners, their animals are members of the family. They require love and they have basic needs that must be met. When a person is no longer able to care for his or her pet, the animal's whole world may change. Many pets end up in shelters or abandoned when their owners are no longer in the picture. This does not have to happen, though.

Help avoid estate litigation with a durable power of attorney

People in New Jersey and all over the country have a lot of ideas on how to set up their estate plans to make things easier on their loved ones. Conflicting advise may be given from people in varying fields of expertise. There are several ways to set up an estate plan that can help loved ones avoid estate litigation. Utilizing a durable power of attorney is one option.

In another state, a man was told by his banker that adding his son as a co-owner on his bank accounts would be a great way to pass assets directly to his son when he dies or for his son to handle any financial affairs for him if he were to become incapacitated. It may sound like a good idea, but it has a lot of potential problems. This is certainly not a suggestion an estate planning attorney would make, and here is why.

Estate planning scams are very real and very common

Many New Jersey residents need to take the time to do some planning for the future. Future planning is more than thinking five or 10 years out; it extends to planning for one's incapacitation or death. While estate planning is not a fun topic, failing to get it done, get it done right and get it done with the help of the right people can have significant consequences for oneself and one's beneficiaries.

When preparing to start the estate planning process, it is normal to look around and see what options and help are out there. There are a number of people in various professions who will claim to have the tools one needs to create a good and valid estate plan. At the end of the day, only lawyers have the ability to draft the legal documents one needs.

New Jersey elder law: When to seek caregiving services

Watching a parent, grandparent or other loved one advance in age or experience health issues is difficult. No one wants to see it happen, yet it happens to everyone. When people are going through it themselves, they may put off seeking out caregiving services as they want to maintain their independence. Sometimes it takes someone else stepping up an saying caregiving support is needed. New Jersey residents can learn to recognize the signs that care support is needed and help their loved ones get the assistance they need and set up the elder law protections they require.

How can one know if a loved one needs caregiving services? According to AARP, there are five things one can look for to determine if such assistance is required. These five signs are:

  • Fall hazards are present in his or her home.
  • He or she has unfinished business, such as unpaid bills.
  • There are concerns about his or her ability to drive.
  • He or she is too isolated.
  • He or she does not look well -- unkempt, sad, distressed, extreme weight changes.

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Thomas N. Torzewski, LLC

Torzewski & McInerney, LLC
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Morristown, NJ 07960

Phone: 973-532-2868
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