Estate planning may need an update with the current health crisis

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Estate Planning May Need An Update With The Current Health Crisis

It is always a good idea for New Jersey residents to have an estate plan regardless of the circumstances. However, when there is a national health problem in progress, that can make it even more vital to have estate planning documents or update the ones that are already in place. It is difficult to think about life and death issues at any time, and knowing which documents to create and update is essential.

A fundamental part of a comprehensive estate plan is a will. The will states how a person’s property will be distributed at the time of death. It also lets the person – the testator – select someone trustworthy to serve as the executor. The executor handles the distribution of the assets. If there is no will, it means the person dies intestate and it will be left to the courts to determine where the property goes.

Health concerns may make two documents necessary: a power of attorney and a health care proxy. The power of attorney will let a person perform certain duties if the person is incapacitated. That includes paying bills, writing checks and dealing with taxes, among other things. This should be a trusted person who will look out for the individual’s best interests. The health care proxy lets a person make decisions on treatment and care if the person is unable to on his or her own. This is important as it could mean determining whether to keep someone alive through artificial means or not.

Finally, a living trust is an entity that contains the person’s assets. It can be changed by the person at any time. When a person is incapacitated, the living trust avoids probate. There can also be a successor trustee so someone else can handle the affairs and, again, probate will not be needed. Because probate is public, a living trust gives privacy that is not available with probate.

As for updating the estate plan, this is something people tend to put off. Life changes and concerns about circumstances make it wise to take the step and alter the plan as needed. Estate planning should not be ignored. This is true for creating the plan and updating it. For advice on what should be in the plan, how it should be structured and to craft a document that best suits an individual’s needs, a legal professional can provide guidance and advice.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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