“I don’t have enough money to worry about estate planning!”

This is one of the most common statements we hear from clients in the Sussex County community regarding creating Wills, Trusts, and an Estate Plan. The truth is, any ownership of a sizeable asset – a house, for instance – warrants the creation of an Estate Plan. Without one, there is no clearly defined distribution plan for your assets upon your death. The absence of a Will sets your family up for potential struggles and heartaches as the courts decide in probate what to do with your estate.

Wills and Trusts— Not just for the ultra-rich

Wills are simply a documentation of your voice in decisions that affect you and your family. They are intended to represent your plans and wishes when you are not able to directly communicate them yourself. That is not a right exclusive to a certain income level, but a necessity in an environment where the courts are empowered to protect and interpret your wishes for you (in the absence of a Will). One might even argue that it is more expensive to gamble on the future of your family by not documenting your wishes and creating costly future legal proceedings for your heirs.

A standard Will describes your estate and names the individual people and organizations who will receive your specific property. Your Will can also include special instructions from you regarding the distribution of your property, and these must be followed ─ as long as they are legal. By establishing a Will, you can help recipients of your property avoid taxes on property received and remove unnecessary stressful burdens associated with your passing.

Estate planning is not just about money and assets

When many people think of estate planning, they think only of distribution of their assets when they are gone. However, it’s also important to maintain a Living Will. In a Living Will, you designate someone to make a medical decision for you if you are ever unable to make medical decisions yourself and you specify the type of medical treatment you wish to receive (or not receive) should you become seriously ill or incapacitated. It removes the requirement of a lengthy and expensive court hearing determining Guardianship and also relieves some of the doubt from your family about the course of action you would want to be followed in case of serious injury or disease.

Trusts Help Manage Tax Burden

A Trust can be critical to a thorough estate plan, especially when you are trying to protect particular assets such as a business or a high-value home. With the property values in New Jersey, it isn’t uncommon to have a “high-value” home in the eyes of the government. Often used to avoid preventable tax burdens, a Trust can be established either during your life or after your passing via your Will.

You have numerous options beyond tax management when it comes to Trusts. For example, you can set up a limited liability corporation (LLC) to safeguard certain assets from lawsuits or future claims from creditors; create a Charitable Trust to maximize the benefit you give to a charity, or even set aside money for your grandchildren’s college education. Before you decide on your own that a Trust isn’t appropriate for your financial situation, speak with a trusted advisor who has experience assessing all of your assets as they relate to your estate.

Estate Planning Assistance

An Estate Planning attorney can help you discover all the ways in which you would benefit from Wills and Trusts. At the same time, they can perform as much, or as little, of the necessary steps involved in establishing Wills and Trusts. It’s important to keep in mind that Estate Planning can quickly become complex, which is why we recommend that you engage an attorney who either understands the three domains of accounting, financial planning, and taxes or who consults with such experts on a regular basis. That way, nothing gets missed, and you gain peace-of-mind regarding the futures of your family and loved ones.

The attorneys at Askin & Hooker have decades of experience assisting families to build customized estate and tax plans.  Our Wills, Trusts, and Estates practices skillfully handle Asset Protection Strategies, Medicaid Planning, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, Family Trusts & Special Needs Trusts. Call us today for your initial estate plan consultation at (973) 729-7711.