Basic Estate Planning
A basic estate plan typically consists of a Last Will and Testament, General Power of Attorney, Advance Directive for Healthcare, Healthcare Proxy, HIPAA Authorization, and a Letter of Instruction. Everyone should have a basic estate plan in place.
Through an Estate Plan, you can plan for:
- Who will receive your assets (naming beneficiaries) upon your death.
- Who you want to take care of your minor children (guardianship) in the event of the death of both parents.
- Who will be responsible for handling your estate (executors and trustees).
- Minimizing estate and/or inheritance taxes.
- Who will make medical and financial decisions for you in the event you are unable to handle those decisions yourself.
- Who will be authorized to receive health information about you in the event of a medical emergency.
- The authority given to powers of attorney, executors and trustees.
- A quicker probate process.
- Avoidance of having New Jersey law determine who is entitled to your assets, who will be the guardians of your minor children, and who will administer your estate.
- Less confusion and clear direction to your family, friends, or anyone else who may be making decisions on your behalf.
What does each basic estate planning document cover?:
Last Will and Testament
This document designates who will be in charge of your estate, who are the beneficiaries of your estate, what the beneficiaries will receive, and how the beneficiaries will receive their share. The Will also appoints guardians/trustees for (minor) children.
General Power of Attorney
This document designates another person to handle your affairs, other than medical and healthcare, for you if you are unable to do so. This authority extends to such matters as banking, stocks/bonds, real estate, motor vehicle, taxes, safe deposit boxes, utilities, etc.
- Advance Directive for Healthcare (“Living Will”) – This document sets forth your wishes regarding Medical treatment if you are unable to express those wishes yourself. Some of the decisions addressed in this document include: If you were suffering from a terminal illness or irreversible condition with little to no quality of life, do you want extraordinary measures taken to keep you alive, including life support, ventilator, feeding tube, major surgery or blood transfusions? Do you want palliative care to alleviate pain and keep you comfortable? Upon your death, do you want to make an anatomical gift, i.e., organ donation or donating your body to research?
- Healthcare Power of Attorney (“Healthcare Proxy”) – This document designates another person to make your healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Who do you want to designate as your Health Care Representative and Guardian if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make health care decisions yourself?
- HIPAA Authorization – This document designates another person to be authorized to obtain health information on your behalf. The authorization form includes the name of the person who is authorized to obtain health information on your behalf, and a general description of the protected health information to be used and disclosed and those entities authorized to make the use or disclosure. This document differs from the Healthcare Power of Attorney in that the Healthcare Power of Attorney only takes effect when you no longer have the capacity to make decisions, and includes decision-making authority. The HIPAA Authorization takes effect when you sign it, and only includes authorization to obtain health information, but no decision-making authority.
- Letter of Instruction – This is a set of instructions to your family and heirs to be read upon the event of your incapacity or death. This document is important because it takes away confusion and other burdens from your family at an extremely difficult time in their lives. This document includes financial information (location of bank accounts; passwords for online accounts; safe deposit boxes; life insurance policies; etc.), health information (physician contact information; insurance and prescription information), funeral/burial/cremation instructions, and other important information.
Asset Protection and Tax Planning through the use of Trusts, Gifting, and other asset preservation strategies
When addressing your finances, planning for your future and trying to protect assets, or helping a loved one through this process, there is a minefield of tax and other implications to consider, and there are many options available to help protect your assets and minimize potential estate and inheritance taxes. Sometimes this is done through creating a trust, such as a Children’s Trusts, an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, or a Special Needs/Supplemental Needs Trust. Giving gifts to family, friends and churches and charities is another option. We will guide you through this process and provide with you appropriate and effective advice to achieve your goals.
Small/Family Owned Business Succession Planning; Buy-Sell Agreements
For most business owners, they spend the majority of their time on their day-to-day business operations, and not a lot of time on planning for the eventual sale or transfer of their business, due to a major life or triggering event such as retirement, disability, divorce, or death of one of the owners.
If you are business owner with a partner or partners, one of best ways to protect the future of your business is to create a buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement is a contract that sets forth the terms of how business interests are transferred, including the future sale of your business interest or for your purchase of a co-owner’s interest in the business.
Post-divorce estate planning
If someone is married, they typically name their spouse as the beneficiary of the assets of their estate in their Last Will and Testament, name their spouse as beneficiary of a life insurance policy, and appoint their spouse as their decision-maker regarding financial and medical decisions in Power of Attorney documents. After a divorce, it is critical that those documents are reviewed by an attorney and updated to reflect the new circumstances. If you are recently divorced, or are in the process of a divorce, we will review your current legal documents to ensure that the proper updates are put in place. If you don’t already have legal documents in place, we will help you prepare a basic estate plan that accurately reflects your current intentions regarding your assets, your health, and your finances.