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Morristown Estate Litigation Blog

Getting married and estate planning go hand-in-hand

Newly married couples in New Jersey and elsewhere often have big plans for their future. They dream of all the things they want to do and take steps to make those dreams a reality -- which, of course, is a good thing. There is one aspect of future planning that some newly married couples try to avoid, though, and that is preparing for death. Everyone dies at some point. If estate planning has not been completed, it can hurt one's spouse and/or one's children in the end.

No one likes to think about death, particularly people who are just in the new stages of marital life. It is understandable that it is a depressing thing to think about. However, knowing why it is something to think about may help some couples bite the bullet and get an estate plan put together.

Most common estate planning mistakes

Estate planning is serious business. Although everyone's plan is different, there are some common mistakes attorneys and judges see all the time. 

A single mistake is enough to completely derail a family's plan. The death of a loved one is already tough on everyone, but pursuing litigation may only complicate matters. Therefore, when anyone creates an estate plan, it is critical to watch out for these errors. 

New Jersey estate planning: Is a DIY will really worth it?

There are a lot of projects out there that the average person can complete on his or her own with great results. The do-it-yourself craze certainly gets people out, trying new things and sharpening already existing skills. Unfortunately, DIY is not meant for everything. Take a DIY will, for example. It is cheap and quick and seems to get basic estate planning done, but is it the best way for New Jersey residents to protect their assets and beneficiaries?

A quick Google search will bring up a number of websites that offer DIY will forms online. These forms are all very basic and there are no guarantees that they or the websites they come from are up to date with current state laws. People turn to these online products, though, because they are easy to access and fairly inexpensive to purchase. In the long run, though, a will made this way can end up costing one's beneficiaries a lot in the end. 

New Jersey estate planning: Do I need a trust?

To set up a trust or not to set up a trust, that is the question. Many New Jersey residents have an idea of what trusts can do, but some are not sure if going through the work to create one is really worth it. Is a trust really needed? It is actually not a necessity for everyone; however, those with children might want to consider all of the benefits a trust offers when going through the estate planning process.

Why would having a trust in place benefit one's children? No matter a child's age, if a parent becomes incapacitated or passes away, assets intended for the child may end up being taken by creditors or lost in estate litigation. No one wants that.

Executor role is something to think about when estate planning

Planning one's estate can be a difficult task, as there is a lot to think about. One thing that some New Jersey residents may fail to really consider is the role the executor plays when it comes to administering their estates. Before just naming anyone to this position when going through the estate planning process, really consider who would be best for the job.

Being the executor of an estate is not easy. There is a lot that this person has to do. Failing to do everything just so can have significant consequences for the executor, beneficiaries and the estate in general. A few things that an executor has to do when administering an estate are:

  • Locate the will -- if one exists
  • File to open a probate case
  • Collect and inventory assets
  • Inform beneficiaries and creditors
  • Pay any valid claims and taxes
  • Pay legal fees
  • Distribute assets

How a typo in a will can lead to estate litigation

When New Jersey residents take the time to go through the estate planning process, the hope is that their assets will be distributed to their named beneficiaries in the manner stated in their wills. One small thing can mess up those plans, however -- typos. A typo in a will can lead to estate litigation, which can end up costing beneficiaries in the end. There is an ongoing case in another state that is the perfect example of this.

President Andrew Jackson granted the Blackburn family hundreds of acres of land across three states back in 1811. The land has been passed from generation to generation, and the family claims they have no intent of giving it away. The last individual who legally owned the land died in 2014. The fate of the estate has been uncertain ever since.

What is undue influence in estate planning?

Smart residents of New Jersey understand the importance of having a comprehensive estate plan. After all, you work hard for the things you have in life. If you do not draft a will, you may have little control over what happens to your assets after you die. On the other hand, if you have a deceased loved one, relying on a well-drafted will to carry out his or her last wishes is important. 

In most cases, you can trust the plain language of a will. Still, wills are not perfect. If someone did not voluntarily write his or her will, you may need to contest it in court to protect your loved one’s interests. While there are a few grounds you can use to dispute a will, you may want to argue that its drafter was under undue influence. Here are some signs of undue influence in estate planning.

Not taking time to do estate planning only hurts your loved ones

According to a recent report, more than half of American adults have failed to take the steps necessary to protect themselves, their loved ones and their assets, if they were to become incapacitated or pass away. Not taking the time to do estate planning will only create problems down the line. It is something that every New Jersey resident should do, especially if they have children and/or property.

A story was shared on a national news station about a woman in another state who is fighting to keep her house, all because her stepfather failed to leave a will. In a video that accompanied the report, this woman claims that she has lived in the family home for over four decades. The home was originally purchased for $23,000 and is now worth over $1 million. Because there was no will when her stepfather died, according to intestate laws, the property passes to the closest blood relatives. In this case, that happens to be family that lives in another country.

Contested guardianships: When there is trouble with a guardian

Do you have a friend or family member who was assigned a guardian to manage his or her care and finances? Do you have concerns about some of the actions and decisions that the guardian is making on behalf of your loved one? If you do, you can raise those concerns in a New Jersey court and seek to have the guardian removed from his or her role. Cases involving contested guardianships can be difficult to manage, but with the right assistance, you can do everything in your power to make sure your loved one is properly taken care of.

Sometimes elderly or disabled adults need someone to help them manage their assets and medical decisions. If they do not have powers of attorney in place, it is possible for anyone who would like to help them with these things to seek guardianship. A judge will get to decide whether the person seeking this role is fit for the job.

Estate planning: What will happen to your pet when you die?

Many New Jersey residents have pets in their households. To these animal lovers, their pets are truly members of the family. Unfortunately, these are family members who are often forgotten about when going through the estate planning process.

Not everyone cares to leave anything to their pet when they die, but some may want to make sure the animal is placed in a good home. There is nothing wrong with that. If one has specific wishes for what should be done with their beloved pet, it is possible to provide instructions in an estate plan. For those who wish to do so, it is also possible to ensure that funds to care for the animal are also set aside.

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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
Morristown Office Location