Estate planning is not something many New Jersey residents think is important -- or at least not important right now. It is something people do later in life, or it is for people who have significant assets, right? Wrong. It is for anyone who wants to protect their loved ones, their assets and, most importantly, themselves. When it comes to personal protection, having a health care directive is a must.
Myths, by definition, are widely held beliefs or ideas that are actually false. There are many myths about estate planning, and these false beliefs are often enough to stop numerous New Jersey residents from getting their estate plans prepared. This week, this column will discuss estate planning myths versus reality in the hopes of encouraging people to take the time to get their estate planning done.
Few people in New Jersey have or want to create wills. Even fewer want to take the time to go to an attorney's office to go through the entire estate planning process. Electronic wills are being pushed for across the country, as people like the idea of them. They are not yet available to New Jersey residents, though, and that may not be a bad thing.
There is value in planning for what is to happen to one's estate. An estate plan gives guidance to loved ones and lets them know what one wants for them. According to a recently published article, there is also value in discussing these plans with beneficiaries. Why might New Jersey residents want to do this?
Preparing a living trust can help New Jersey residents ensure their property is passed on to the appropriate beneficiaries when the time comes. However, a trust is only good if it is funded, which some people fail to do. When this happens, an estate becomes subject to the probate process, and absent a last will and testament, the state may have to decide how and to whom one's assets are divided. Creating a pour-over will when going through trust-based estate planning can help ensure assets make it into the right hands.
Too few New Jersey residents have estate plans in place. Of those who do, some may not have them stored adequately so that they do their loved ones any good. Estate planning does not just involve planning for one's assets, loved ones and self-protection; it includes planning for proper document storage as well.
Too few New Jersey residents have taken the time to go through the estate planning process. Some believe it is not necessary, while others think about it but just never get around to it. Having some sort of plan in place is better than nothing, but how in-depth does that plan need to be and what should it include -- a will or trust, for example?
Many parents in New Jersey want to make sure their estates pass to their children in equal portions. The problem is, many of them try to make it work out without going through the proper estate planning process. This may result in one's estate being divided in a way that one did not intend, and could even cause one's beneficiaries to endure probate litigation.
Many New Jersey residents have retirement accounts of some sort, through work or personal choice. On these accounts, they likely have beneficiaries designated so that, when they eventually pass on, someone they know and/or love will benefit from their willingness to save. Recipients have a few options when inheriting such funds. Thanks to the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Act, those options are likely about to change, which means estate planning for such accounts will likely need to change.
Every year, numerous women in New Jersey, and even a few men, are diagnosed with breast cancer. When such a diagnosis is received, staying positive and looking ahead to the future is a must -- though, understandably, difficult. The last thing anyone wants to do when faced with a severe illness is think about putting one's affairs in order. Estate planning may not be at the top of one's priority list, but it is not something one should put off entirely. It is possible to remain positive about one's prognosis and make sure personal protections are put in place in the event they are needed.