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Vineland Legal Issues Blog

Estate planning -- Is a Last Will and Testament really necessary?

New Jersey residents who want to ensure that their chosen beneficiaries receive their property upon their deaths might consider drafting a Last Will and Testament. Estate planning starts with a will, and dying without such a document will allow the state to choose beneficiaries who will then receive the decedent's property. Even if the person's estate plan is based on a trust, there will be a need for a will.

Without a trust, the individual's Last Will and Testament will include the details of the person's wishes for the distribution of his or her property. It will list the beneficiaries along with details about how and when they will receive their inheritances. It will also contain the name of the executor or personal representative that will ensure that beneficiaries receive their inheritances, along with what powers the executor will have. If the person has minor children, he or she can also name a guardian to take care of the children until they reach adulthood.

Family law: Staying together for the kids may not benefit them

There will likely always be parents in New Jersey and other states whose relationships with each other have deteriorated entirely, but they choose to remain together for the sake of the children. They might be unaware of recent international studies that confirm the findings of a 2012 American family law study. The consensus is that most children are not damaged by the divorce but rather by living in households where animosity is ever-present. In certain circumstances, children are better off after their parent's divorce.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found in a 2012 study that children who have the support and assurance of the ongoing love of both parents throughout and beyond a divorce actually benefit from it and find it easier to adjust to the new circumstances. When children remain in households in which conflict is prevalent, exposure to violence is often also present. Poor communication between parents along with poor co-parenting has proved to be a link in a significant number of children who develop emotional and physical ailments.

Personal injury: Alleged drunk driver causes fatal rollover crash

A fatal accident investigations unit recently responded to a scene of a wreck that killed two New Jersey women. Authorities say this was a single-vehicle accident that was allegedly caused by the negligence of a drunk driver. The driver is now facing criminal charges, and she may also have to face civil lawsuits of personal injury and wrongful death.

According to an accident report, the crash occurred shortly after 1 a.m. in Paramus when a car with four occupants rolled off Route 4. The cause is still under investigation, but authorities say the vehicle rolled several times and came to rest in the parking lot of the Bergen Town Center. The driver and her three passengers were ejected.

Should you put yourself first when estate planning?

As you work to create your estate plan, you may have your family in mind. You may review and inventory your assets, consider your loved ones' needs and desires, and determine who should receive which pieces of property. However, an estate plan can go far beyond simply deciding how to distribute your assets after death.

Your estate plan could prove immensely beneficial during your life as well as after death. If you take the time to consider your own potential wants and needs, especially when it comes to later-in-life health care, you may allow yourself to feel more at ease. Though you may want to put your children and other family members ahead of yourself, putting yourself first may allow you to create a solid estate plan.

Distribution center injuries? Workers' compensation will help

New Jersey workers who earn their incomes from working in distribution centers face many safety hazards. Although they may find comfort in knowing that they will be entitled to workers' compensation benefits if they should suffer on-the-job injuries, that is something most workers would rather not wish to happen. Safety authorities say good housekeeping can help prevent workplace accidents.

When risk assessments are done in distribution centers, three primary areas will be evaluated. The first is the cleanliness and organization to ensure all areas are free of clutter or trash. Next will be the work sectors, such as aisles and loading docks, to determine whether congestion occurs, and if so, what can be done to resolve it. The condition of storage shelves, pallets and more will be checked along with the state of repair of all equipment that is used for material handling.

A cycling accident doesn't have to flatten your financial tires

Whether as a preferred means of transportation or even as a hobby, many individuals choose to travel from place to place via bicycle. While cycling may have its benefits, such as avoiding traffic or providing a fun form of exercise, there may also be some level of risk involved, especially near traffic.

Perhaps you have been in a bicycle-vehicle collision, with a limited amount of protection available, accidents of this nature have a higher chance of ending in disaster. If the driver of the vehicle is at fault, you might wish to pursue compensation, potentially leaving you to wonder how to proceed.

Family law: Is jewelry regarded as marital property?

When it comes to divorce laws, New Jersey is an equitable distribution state in which the marital property is divided fairly -- though not necessarily equally. Assets brought into the marriage by each spouse will typically remain his or her property. Family law also determines that any gifts or inheritances received during the marriage by one spouse from third parties will continue to be the receiver's property as long as it is not commingled with marital property. If for example, a portion of one spouse's inheritance is used to renovate the family home, it becomes marital property absent a written agreement to the contrary.

Some people are shocked to learn that the jewelry they received from their spouses during their marriages is not regarded as separate property. The fact is that the purchase of the jewelry was funded by marital assets, and for that reason, the only way for one spouse to keep it in a divorce is to give up a similar value of other assets. This does not apply to an engagement ring that was purchased with personal funds prior to the marriage.

Personal injury claim follows consultant's construction site fall

Property owners in New Jersey and elsewhere are always responsible for the safety of people on their properties, even if it is a building site. A construction firm in another state that hired a consultant is now facing a personal injury lawsuit that was filed by that same consultant. The plaintiff and his wife accuse the defendant of failing to maintain a safe work site.

According to court documents, the plaintiff claims that while he was on the construction site, he fell and landed in a pit that was nine feet deep. The consultant said the fall caused back, neck and spine injuries. Furthermore, he said a closed head injury caused traumatic brain injury that led to mental impairment. The consequences included loss of memory, cognitive problems, difficulty with hearing and finding words. Further damages included pain and suffering, aphasia, mental anguish and more injuries.

Estate planning: The importance of living wills

It is often reported that a significant percentage of adults nationwide, including in New Jersey, neglect to draft wills -- often putting it off for later. It might be natural to expect death to come in old age because many fail to give thought to the fact that death or incapacitation can occur at any age. What will happen to the young children of a divorced mother who suffers catastrophic injuries in an accident when she is in her early 30s? If she has attended to estate planning and chosen to make a living will, the care of the children may already be planned.

Such a tragic event can happen to anybody, and without plans in place, the children could go into foster care or be left with a relative who may not have been the first choice. Furthermore, the legal system can hold up a parent's life savings for years, rather than making it available for the care of the children. As part of estate planning, an advanced directive can tell doctors what medical care a patient wants or does not want -- regardless of whether it is due to an accident or because of a terminal illness. 

Estate planning at a younger age could be less complicated

Conversations about wills and trusts tend to force people to accept their mortality, which is something many New Jersey residents might prefer to avoid. However, estate planning is necessary for all -- regardless of age, financial situations and family ties. It is a way to ensure the distribution of assets in a manner that will take care of surviving loved ones. While it is often believed that estate planning must be done closer to retirement age, the best time to get started with it is upon receiving that first salary check, or at least around the age of 30 years.

Basic estate planning is less complicated, and as assets grow over the years, estate plans can be updated. To start the planning, it may be best to draft a list of the individuals that will be included. These are typically family members, close friends and business partners, if applicable. Succession planning for a small business can be included in the process. The next step is to list all valuable assets in the estate in categories based on how they must be distributed, not forgetting to update beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement accounts.

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