How do I start estate planning in New Jersey?

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How Do I Start Estate Planning In New Jersey

No matter what your age and no matter where you are in your life, having an estate plan is important and necessary. The fact is that everyone has assets and a legacy that they wish to pass down to someone who is near and dear to their heart.

No matter how large your estate is, it should be your decision where you want your assets to go so that your legacy is preserved and so that the particular assets, whether they are more of sentimental value or are also monetarily valuable, will go exactly where you want them to go.

Exactly what is estate planning?

By definition, estate planning is a process to protect you and your assets while you are alive so that your loved ones can be protected and provided for after you are gone. The steps of the process are as follows:

  • Your incapacity or the incapacity of your loved one: There is a document that protects you if you should become incapacitated and need someone to make decisions on your behalf. There is another document that will provide for your loved one if that person is incapacitated and needs you to provide for them throughout their lifetime.
  • You designate who will raise your minor children if you are not here: This is an important role and one that comes with a great deal of responsibility. The decision about whom to choose will not be a decision that you make lightly. Your children are your treasures and you will want to choose someone who you believe can raise them as well as you can.
  • Provide for children from a previous marriage: The fact is that your children are your children, whether you are still with the other parent or not. You have a responsibility to all of your children and it is important that all of the children are provided for.
  • Protect your assets so that you have something to pass down: No matter what your assets are worth, you will want to make sure that as much as possible remains intact at the time of your passing so that your heirs benefit the most from what they are inheriting.
  • If a family member doesn’t deserve to inherit, you are not obligated to will them anything: Biology is not enough when it comes to your relationship with a particular relative. Whether or not you pass down a particular asset to that person should depend on your relationship and how the other person treats you while you are alive. You don’t owe them anything and it is important for them to understand that an inheritance is a privilege, not a right.

Which documents are included in an estate plan?

There are several essential documents that you will wish to include in your estate plan, such as a will; trust(s), durable power of attorney, which will enable the executor of your estate to deal with your property and an advance directive so that the designated person (or people) can make health care decisions on your behalf. Although the will is probably the most important document in your estate plan, the other documents are also very important and you won’t want to leave anything out.

Solid advice from an estate planning attorney

You may feel that it is easy enough to create your own estate plan but it is advisable to consult an attorney who has the experience and knowledge that you probably don’t have so that you can get through the process smoothly. Your New Jersey estate planning attorney can review your documents closely and advise you on exactly what to do so that your rights are protected and you are confident that your wishes will be carried out at the right time.


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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