Estate planning can be a sensitive subject, no matter how old the person might be. In fact, almost half of Americans 55 or older have not put any official plan in writing. For those who have actually taken the time to put together a will, many have locked it away and may never review it again.
Protecting digital assets is something this column has addressed in previous posts. Making sure digital assets are protected matters. Making sure that loved ones have the right to access digital assets also matters. When estate planning, New Jersey residents would be wise to consider naming a digital guardian. If this step is not taken, one's beneficiaries may not be legally allowed to access specific online accounts.
When a person dies, his or her estate typically passes to his or her spouse, unless that individual is unmarried, widowed or leaves specific instructions stating that assets should go elsewhere. When a spouse is left out of a will, he or she can either accept it or, according to the state of New Jersey, may be entitled to claim an elective share. Doing the latter can lead to estate litigation.
There are those in New Jersey who take the time to put together estate plans in order to ensure that they, their loved ones and their assets are protected, should anything happen to them. While doing this is something that is strongly advised, if the wording in estate planning documents makes one's wishes unclear, all the planning and preparation may be for not. A prime example of this is the Tom Petty estate litigation case.
Some New Jersey residents, in an effort to prevent their beneficiaries from having to go through a long, drawn-out probate process, choose to create transfer-on-death beneficiary deeds. Under the right circumstances, and if everything is done just so, this can work, and there are benefits to going this route. Of course, such deeds are not without their drawbacks as well. For example, they only cover certain types of property, and it is possible to challenge them in court.
Those in New Jersey and around the world who grew up reading Marvel comics and watching the blockbuster movies based on those characters are likely familiar with the creator of that world, Stan Lee. Lee built an empire around Iron Man, Doctor Doom, Black Panther and other superheroes and villains. When he died in 2018 at the age of 95, his estate was worth over $50 million. However, recent media reports say that one of Lee's closest advisors may have violated elder law by committing financial abuse against the comic book legend.
Putting an estate plan together serves a few very important purposes for New Jersey residents. First, it offers one protection in the event of incapacitation. Second, it offers protection for one's family in the event of one's incapacitation or death. Finally, third, it is supposed to ensure that assets are distributed to the proper parties upon one's death. Unfortunately, estate litigation often arises when family members or other parties take issue with how certain assets included in the estate are to be distributed.