Many of us who live in New Jersey are aware that planning your estate can be a challenge. The first big step is making the decision that a will is needed. After that, planning your estate includes determining where assets should go after death and which documents are right for your particular estate plan.
According to recent reports, more than half of adults do not have a will. Additionally, more than 92 percent of those under age 35 do not have an estate plan at all. These large numbers include New Jersey residents whose assets may end up being controlled by a probate court if documents like wills and trusts aren't established.
When planning your estate, the first document most people consider is a will. This document can include directives for an estate executor who will distribute assets as per the deceased person's wishes. Without the will, all assets will go through the state's probate process and be subject to its laws. This situation limits where and to whom assets will go at the time of death.
Other estate planning documents include healthcare directives that can tell your appointed representative which medical treatments you will receive if you become incapacitated. Without this document, state laws will apply to medical decisions, leading to state-required intervention regarding end-of-life care.
Many people also find that a trust is a valuable tool as they are planning an estate. A trust can help control assets for a person both before and after a death. Many different types of trusts can be created, including living trusts, special needs trusts and even trusts for the benefit of pets.
Planning your estate can sometimes be a stressful and confusing process, but people who are beginning to take such action should review all of their assets with a view toward a thoughtful and ultimately fruitful distribution. The time spent on properly planning your estate may well pay dividends in the form of tax savings and reduced expenses, as well as offer a sense of security that one's assets will be dealt with as intended.
Source: usnews.com, "What Type of Estate and Tax Planning Do I Need to Do?" Susan Johnston, Feb. 27, 2012