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Tips to remember in the estate planning process

Planning for the future is more than just planning for major events in a person's life. It is also about planning for what happens after a person's death. Estate planning, for many New Jersey residents, may appear to be a daunting task. Some overwhelmed individuals may try to rush through the process or ignore it entirely. Unfortunately, this can lead to mistakes that, in the long run, may have disastrous results. 

Too often, individuals die without first writing a basic will, which could result in family members undergoing long and expensive court proceedings in order to prove their relationship with the deceased. Others may neglect to include a plan for if they are incapacitated and unable to make financial or health care decisions. This can result in a stranger being appointed to make these decisions, or it could cause family members to argue over what needs to be done. There are also those who believe that their 'do it yourself' solution will be sufficient. Improperly written or executed wills can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. 

Some people who do have a will or basic plan forget that in order for that plan to be effective, it should be updated regularly. There are financial accounts that, if not otherwise specified, will automatically transfer to another party, usually the spouse or joint account holder, upon the owner's death. However, some people might wish for some, if not all, of the funds in these accounts to be given to another party or be used to pay off debts. People who have been married and divorced sometimes forget to update their estate plans to include their children or new spouses and exclude their ex-spouses.

Consulting with an attorney familiar with the estate planning process can be incredibly beneficial to New Jersey residents. Attorneys can help their clients to understand all of the options available to them and which ones may be best suited to their individual situations. They can also help their clients to keep their plan up to date and change it as needed. 

Source:, "7 common estate planning disasters and how to avoid them", Michael Feinfeld, April 26, 2018

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