How To Take on The Hard Conversations with Family Members About Estate Planning

Are you worried about whether or not your parents have thought through and set up their estate plan? If not, you may be concerned that you and your siblings will be left to deal with probate on your own.

A big reason why many people put off the process of planning their estate is because they are concerned that they don’t need one. However, having an estate plan is an important way to help support your loved ones, and you can greatly reduce their confusion and frustration after you pass away by undertaking these important steps. It’s not always or ever an easy conversation to discuss end of life planning, or what happens after you pass away.

There is a great concern that talking about death will upset your spouse and family, and although it is true that this can be an uncomfortable conversation to start, knowing a loved one or parent’s wishes about everything from medical care they do and don’t want to receive to potential funeral plans can be reassuring. It can give family members a sense of relief to understand what to expect and what important decisions they should take on behalf of their loved ones.

This is also a good opportunity to discuss your individual legacy, such as the values you want to pass down to your other family members. This can be a much easier way to broach the subject of estate planning and to encourage your loved ones to undertake their estate planning as well.

Ready to set up your own estate plan or review an older one that needs some updates? Contact our office today for personal support with a NJ estate plan.

Do Real Estate Assets Go Through Probate?

If you own any kind of real estate, including a home, you should include these in your will because there is a high chance they will pass through probate. There are some options for keeping real estate outside of your probated estate, such as transfer on death deeds, joint ownership or trusts. It is usually less avoidable for valuable possessions. When determining how your beneficiaries could be affected by the transfer of assets, such as real estate, first think about the number of beneficiaries that you intend to name.

If you are naming multiple people as beneficiaries to a piece of real estate, you may need to think about titling complications such as titling each of those to beneficiaries separately or having the property sold and the proceeds divided. Do not forget to think about potential tax and financial implications of passing things on in this way either. Your beneficiaries may have to pay capital gains taxes as part of a possible sale. You can also use tools such as a qualified personal residence trust to protect real estate. This pulls the property outside of your probate estate and helps to avoid federal estate taxes, which will also allow you to continue to live in the residence for a predetermined period of time.

You must outlive the term of the trust, however, to see the tax benefits. You can also name a joint owner on the property now so that it passes directly to the second owner which is allowed via a transfer on death deed. The property then passes immediately to that person who is usually a spouse outside of probate relatively quickly.



Are There Any Probate Shortcuts In New Jersey?

When a loved one passes away who lived in New Jersey there are many questions that must be answered regarding the administration of their estate. Certain small estates may qualify for a probate shortcut. This makes it much faster and easier for surviving family members to transfer property left behind by the person who passed away. You may be able to transfer significant amounts of property using this probate shortcut if the simplified probate procedure applies.

An executor must submit a written request to the local probate court asking for the simplified procedure to be used. The court can then approve that executor to take the action of distributing assets without going through the regular process of probate. If there is no valid will and the value of all property doesn’t exceed $20,000, the domestic partner or surviving spouse is entitled to all of it without probate, but they must use all of it except for $5,000 to pay any creditors who have valid claims.

In order for the request to be approved, it must include the deceased person’s residence location and the nature and value of any real and personal property owned by that person. For more assistance with understanding the simplified probate procedures in New Jersey, schedule a consultation with an attorney today.

The more you know about your own estate size, the easier it is to determine which kinds of planning options you must consider moving forward. You can make things easier for your loved ones by setting up an estate plan well in advance. Contact our NJ estate planning office today to discuss.

Who is Responsible for Administering My Trust or Will in New Jersey?

The administration of a trust and will likely fall to two different people in New Jersey, depending on how your estate plan is structured. The executor that you name in your will is responsible for carrying out those instructions inside your will. A trustee, however, plays a similar role, but typically until all assets inside the trust have been distributed to beneficiaries.

This means that a trustee might serve in their role for a much longer period of time. A child, financial institution, friend, family member, or other professional could also be named as co-trustee or co-executor. While both the titles of trustee and executor might sound relatively simple, these are substantial responsibilities, and it is important for the person who has been chosen to serve in these roles to understand this position and to feel comfortable serving in this role on an ongoing basis.

A trustee, in particular, is especially important because they are usually given some discretion over trust funds and when distributions should be made to beneficiaries. Only a trusted individual should serve in this role and someone who is comfortable communicating with any and all of the beneficiaries on your estate. The support of an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help to create a strategy to encompass the appointment of an executor, as well as a trustee.

Contact an experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyer for further support as you create these documents and name the important people to serve in these roles.

How to Know Your Loved One is Suffering from the Early Signs of Dementia

It can be devastating to realize that your loved one is suffering from dementia, but it can also be difficult to determine when the symptoms have grown to the level that you may need outside medical help. This also has important implications for whether or not estate planning can still be done. Set aside a time to work with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer if you believe that your loved one is showing early signs of dementia.

The important steps you take now to protect yourself and their interests can serve as a solid foundation going forward. The early signs of a dementia diagnosis are vague and may not be immediately obvious. They may often be written off because they occur irregularly, increasing confusion, memory issues, loss of ability to do everyday tasks, depression, withdrawal/apathy, or behavior and personality changes are all some of the early indications of dementia.

Those who get distracted with tasks and may forget to serve part of a meal or to finish a task indicate difficulty with following through on all steps involved in that task. Disorientation, language problems, and changes in abstract thinking are other indications that a loved one may be suffering from dementia.

If these signs and symptoms are becoming more frequent or getting worse, you should consult with a lawyer who knows the lay of the land and who can help you figure out whether a nursing home and Medicaid paying for it are things to consider right now.

This makes it important to retain an experienced estate planning lawyer now to give yourself and your loved one the best possible chance to create an estate plan. Contact a NJ estate planning attorney now for more information.

How to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is substantially under-reported, primarily because many people who are suffering as victims do not feel comfortable speaking up. Many others do not realize that they have potential legal recourse or may so concerned about backlash from the person perpetrating the abuse or the facility that they choose not to speak up. The most common warning signs of elder abuse are sudden and strange changes to a loved one’s financial, physical, or emotional wellbeing.

Watching for physical symptoms is an easy way to spot the potential for physical or sexual abuse. Symptoms and signs of elder abuse can include poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss, injuries such as broken bones, cuts, or bruises, unexplained loss of money or confusion around particular transactions, withdrawal from friends and family members, symptoms of depression, signs of confusion, and discomfort speaking around the person who may be carrying out the abuse.

If you find yourself in the position of dealing with elder abuse, particularly at the hands of someone in a nursing home, you should consult with an experienced attorney. You might also need to move a loved one to a new facility to get the peace of mind provided when you know they are being cared for well. There’s so much to think about when you have concerns over elder abuse, but their safety should be front and center.

Physical abuse is just one example. Financial elder abuse is a serious issue on the rise as well.

Having estate planning documents put in place sooner rather than later, can establish a power of attorney for an elderly loved one that can help to serve as an additional layer of protection. However, to avoid potential elder abuse by the person holding the power of attorney, it is important to select a trusted individual to serve in this role. Talk with an estate planning lawyer about how you can use certain tools like a POA to help reduce the risk of financial elder abuse.

Can I Still Plan My Estate During a Crisis?

A big reason why many people put off estate planning is because they’re not in a crisis. Without seeing an immediate need, it’s easy to write off doing the important planning to protect you in case a crisis does happen. While you’ll get the best results and avoid possible conflicts and estate disputes by doing your planning in advance, there might still be options to make headway when you’re facing a crisis.

Whether you or a loved one is looking at a serious health issue or other legal reason to do your estate planning, one of the first things to do is contact a lawyer. A lawyer can walk you through all the legal and possible options for planning your estate and getting your documents in order.

Here are some questions to ask when you contact a lawyer to walk through your crisis planning possibilities:

  • Do we have any options to take action now? For example, if a loved one now has serious dementia and no planning has been done, it will be harder to create legally valid documents if this person is unable to speak for themselves. Any signatures they add to documents could be easily questioned in the future. However, if the person is in early stages of dementia and is still capable of understanding their surroundings, creating powers of attorney is possible.
  • What’s at risk if we don’t take action now? When someone needs immediate help, such as a rush application for Medicaid, this should be pursued with utmost care.
  • How soon can we realistically accomplish these goals, and what roadblocks do you see? Depending on your estate planning question or concern, it’s important to know how long it will take to get strategies or documents in place as well as some of the common challenges.

If you’re ready to start estate planning now to avoid having to do it in a crisis, or if you’re currently facing a crisis and need help, reach out to our estate planning law offices now.

Is Active vs. Passive Actually Passé?

As a member of probably the last generation to grow up with a rotary dial phone in the house, I can still recall when there was clear distinction between phones and computers. Phones were utilitarian devices, while computers were gateways to limitless knowledge and entertainment.

Nowadays, that distinction has dissolved. For many consumers, phones arguably obviate the need for a personal computer.

Similarly, evolution in finance has etched away the apparent cut-and-dried distinction between active and passive investing. The current landscape suggests the characteristics implied by such traditional, binary labels may not be sufficient to describe many of today’s investment approaches. A more nuanced framework takes the spirit of active and passive definitions—betting against market prices vs. embracing them—and examines how it applies to an investment’s underlying philosophy and implementation.


Index investing emerged amid a growing body of evidence showing that traditional active methods of attempting to select stocks and time markets were ineffective. Studies documenting underperformance by active fund managers supported the sentiment that market prices were largely fair and any attempt to find under- or overpriced securities was akin to flipping a coin. So, the arrival of index funds represented a shift towards embracing market prices—if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Because early indexing didn’t spin its wheels in bottom-up company analysis or top-down economic trend forecasting, it became known as passive investing. However, this stretches the definition of “passive.” A sailboat without its own propulsion must still be actively manipulated to keep wind in its sail. Indexes are not perpetual motion machines free of maintenance, but require periodic management through additions, deletions, and security reweighting. Index construction rules are often designed to accommodate the mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking the indexes, reducing index turnover, for example, by limiting the number of rebalancing events and imposing thresholds on security weight changes.

Also blurring the line between active and passive is the fact that some investors may use index funds to pursue an active investment approach. For example, the largest S&P 500 ETF had the highest average daily trade volume of US-listed securities in 2021, at $31 billion USD.2 It is reasonable to assume a portion of that trading activity represented asset allocation changes motivated by market viewpoints, rather than buy-and-hold position accumulation.

A more evolved process for categorizing investments applies the active/passive label separately for a strategy’s structure/implementation and its underlying philosophy. While some investment approaches still appear active or passive through and through under this framework, many investment styles have a foot in both camps.

Stock-picking and market-timing strategies would universally be described as active, and the 2×2 framework in Exhibit 1 shows how this label is earned. These approaches are rooted in an active philosophy that implicitly presumes mispriced securities or market segments can be identified. This philosophy is executed in an active structure that deviates from the market in an attempt to exploit mispricing opportunities.

Broad market index funds, on the other hand, fit a passive definition along both dimensions. The raison d’être of index funds is an acceptance of the market’s pricing power, a concession that trying to outguess markets is unlikely to succeed in the long term. The structure of the broad market index funds is true to that belief, generally holding the entirety of the prescribed asset class or market segment with no deviations motivated by expected-return goals.

Expansion of the ETF landscape has spawned a segment of index ETFs that do not track broad market indices, instead offering more targeted exposure for investors who are looking to time markets or concentrate on particular stocks. For example, you can find a social sentiment ETF that holds the top 75 large cap stocks based on investor exuberance measured through channels such as social media and news outlets. Another example is a millennial-themed consumer ETF that seeks to ride the coattails of companies benefiting from millennials’ consumption preferences. I hope its prospectus isn’t written in cursive!

These are but two examples of index funds that sit apart from traditional passive approaches. They track indices, so are passive in structure. But the philosophical underpinning of these niche ETFs would seem inconsistent with an acceptance of market prices. An investor who believes stock prices reflect available information about companies likely would not see the appeal of an allocation to trendy stocks based on a belief in their growth potential. Our framework assigns an active/passive designation to these index ETFs.

The final quadrant expresses Dimensional’s approach, which starts with a firm belief in the power of markets. In that sense, our philosophy is aligned with the industry’s original shift to passive. We use the information in prices throughout our investment process with an aim to increase expected returns daily, seeking to add value above markets and benchmarks. The implementation is therefore active—we are not beholden to the construction rules of an index. So, we land on passive/active: an approach that seeks to outperform markets without trying to outguess them.

By: Wes Crill, PhD
Head of Investment Strategists and Vice President

Sources: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


When Will a Loved One Need to Start the Probate Process?

When you pass away, there are many important tasks that need to be taken care of as soon as possible. It can often be overwhelming or confusing for family members to figure out what to do, particularly if they cannot locate your documents or are unaware of what you wanted to happen with regard to funeral and burial planning.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to opening probate, but the truth is that this should be done by an intended or appointed personal representative as soon as possible after you pass away. In many cases, it makes sense for family members and friends to consider the grieving process before jumping into the legal and administrative aspects of death. That being said, an executor or personal representative doesn’t have the appropriate authority to act on behalf of the estate until they have been formally appointed.

There’s not much that the that a probate lawyer or an appointed personal representative is able to do until the death certificate has been issued and until probate has been opened. It may be a good opportunity to review and look for any and all documents that the deceased might have created, including their will and any other important paperwork, such as deeds or location information about a safety deposit box. Notifying the person you intend to appoint as executor or personal representative is strongly recommended to increase the chances that they will be able to spring into action relatively quickly.

If you don’t yet have your estate set up, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about your options. A lawyer can advise you about what to expect and how to create a comprehensive estate plan to match your goals.

Nearly Three-Quarters of Older Workers Regret This Financial Mistake

No one wants to enter retirement only to learn that there’s a key step they could have taken to protect themselves years before. By then, it’s too late. In the best-case scenario, you play catch up. In the worst, you adjust your standard of living, sell assets, or make other difficult decisions.

Current retirees recently participated in a study indicating that 70% of them share a common regret. The research study completed by the Insured Retirement Institute has important implications for younger workers as well and younger employees can take positive steps in their financial planning to support it.

The data showed that nearly 70% of older workers wished they had started saving money for retirement earlier than they did. It’s much harder to hit your investment goals and to protect your interests in older years if you don’t start saving for retirement early. It is extremely important to find the support of a dedicated retirement planning advisor and other members of your financial team, such as an estate planning lawyer.

An estate planning lawyer can help you define how you want to align your retirement goals with your giving goals in later years and the possibility of long-term care expenses. Failing to think about retirement and estate planning holistically can have negative repercussions for you and the loved ones that you intend to support as beneficiaries. Set aside time to meet with an experienced estate planning lawyer today and to find the other professionals to help support your financial goals now and in the future to avoid making retirement mistakes.

New Jersey Hits Bottom Spot on States to Retire List

Do you plan to move to New Jersey to retire, or do you live there now? If so, you need to plan ahead to protect yourself and to make sure you have enough funds to support you and your loved ones.

New Jersey was recently ranked as the United States’ worst state to retire in, according to WalletHub’s annual list. Nearby New York did not score much better. This is the most significant impact that made New Jersey a difficult place to retire was that it finished 49th in the category of affordability.

Other factors that influence this high retirement cost include that it came in low in terms of having an elderly friendly labor market, that the taxpayer ranking was low and that the annual cost of living and in-home services were middling or towards the bottom of the list. Moving somewhere based on your preferences and your health status can be dangerous because it can overlook other important factors that may influence your ability to live the lifestyle that you intended to at the time of retirement.

Having a comprehensive retirement and estate plan are some of the most important things you can do to protect your interests and make sure that you have a strategy in place for moving somewhere that allows you to live this lifestyle. Being close to family members and whether or not there is a state estate tax or income tax are other issues to consider.

If you don’t have an estate plan yet, or if you haven’t yet discussed Medicaid for your long term care plan, contact our law office today for further help.

Study Shows Older Retirees’ Funds Took Big Hits In 2021

When looking to your own future, there are three big concerns: retirement, long-term care planning, and estate planning. In many ways, the plans for each of these intersect and influence each other. You might have funds set aside for your retirement that are also earmarked for a loved one.

New research from the Senior Citizens League shows that inflation is having negative impacts on retirement savings. In fact, more than 60% of retirees who responded to the survey indicated that their savings had dropped by 10% or greater in 2021. Medical services and health care costs have continued to rise, making this especially important for older adults to think about the possibility of covering long-term care expenses.

A February report indicates that the January consumer price index in the United States grew by 6%, which shows that inflation is still rising and causing negative impacts for consumers of all ages. The biggest increases in consumer prices were in gasoline, used trucks and cars and overall energy.

Although these issues don’t affect retirees as much, many people may be dipping into their savings for a variety of reasons, such as retiring early or spending greater funds on health care than anticipated. In order to create a comprehensive estate plan that protects your individual needs and helps provide for your loved ones in the future, you need the support of an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Although you can’t predict the future, you can pick a retirement and estate strategy that helps support you for many years after you leave the workforce. Get your questions answered by speaking with a NJ estate planning attorney today.

What Are the Downsides of Long-Term Care Insurance?

Recognizing the rising cost of health care and in particular of long-term care, you may be investigating the option for getting long term care insurance. This can help to give you peace of mind that if you need advanced care support, such as that provided by a nursing home, that you will be able to afford it.

Many people do not realize that long term care insurance is a separate kind of insurance from Medicare and that Medicare does not cover the vast majority of expenses in nursing homes after a specific period. If you have extensive need for support with activities of daily living, you may need to qualify for Medicaid, cover these expenses in private pay or use long term care insurance benefits.

Another downside is that most long term care insurance policies have a built-in 60 to 90 day waiting period. This means you won’t be able to use their payment options right away even if your policy is active. Read the fine print on your own policy to verify this.

One of the biggest benefits of LTI is that if you are healthy, you are more likely to stay in your home and maintain your independence longer. One of the biggest downsides of long-term care insurance is that it can be extremely expensive and your premiums can increase after you buy the policy. There may also be specific deadlines for making your ongoing payments to the long-term care insurance company. Many people are shocked by the extensive cost of long-term care insurance particularly when those premiums can go up annually.

Schedule a time to meet with an experienced elder lawyer if you believe that long term care insurance is not appropriate for your current plan and you wish to discuss options for qualifying for Medicaid.

Which Documents Should a Widow or Widower Review After the Loss of a Spouse?

Most older married couples have their estate plans connected to one another. This calls for an evaluation of all of these estate planning materials when a husband or wife passes away. Many of these documents may be invalid and leave you without an important safety net if the primary person named on them was your now-deceased spouse.

Finding an experienced estate planning attorney who has an understanding of the sensitivities involved in this process is extremely important for navigating your new life. There are a few different kinds of documents that should all be reevaluated after losing your spouse. These include:

  • A medical power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy, which determines who can make end of life and medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated
  • Existing durable powers of attorney because you most likely named your spouse as the person to have legal authority to handle financial matters if you’re unable to do so
  • Last will and testaments, which might include significant language passing on many of your assets to your now deceased spouse
  • Medical release forms that only named your spouse
  • Beneficiary designation forms that retirement companies and life insurance policies
  • Any other estate planning materials

Given that you likely tied together your estate plan with your spouse, it is time to reconsider who you wish to make important decisions for you, take actions for you and who you want to receive your assets if something happens to you. All of these goals can be accomplished with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer. We can help you navigate this difficult transition.

What You Should Know About Power of Attorney Resignations

Your power of attorney document formally appoints another person known as a power of attorney agent to take actions on your behalf. As the creator you are referred to as the principal in this document.

There are some situations, however, in which an agent might determine that they wish to resign as your power of attorney. This can include that they do not want the responsibility of looking after someone else’s affairs, if this has caused family fighting or disagreements, or if the arrangement is no longer convenient for them due to work responsibilities or location.

Bear in mind that after appointing a power of attorney agent, they are free to resign from this position at any time, but they must notify you as the principal about this resignation. They should inform you in writing or in person. The agent should also inform you at the point in time at which the resignation takes effect. It is strongly recommended that they write a resignation letter so that there is clarity on both sides as to when the agent’s responsibilities end.

If certain documents have more than one agent listed, you will need to advise other agents about the resignation of the other person. Any financial institutions that your power of attorney agent was working with at the time of their resignation should also be informed about the updates in this plan. For more information about how to choose a new power of attorney agent once a present one has resigned, schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer.

Need help? Contact our NJ estate planning law offices today for help.

How Does a Medical Power of Attorney Work?

You may hear a power of attorney for health care decisions referred to in a few different ways. A medical power of attorney is very important for making sure that someone knows your wishes and is able to respond for your medical care if needed. While you hope that you never need to activate a medical power of attorney, you don’t want to put your loved ones in the difficult situation of trying to go to court to get this authority.

Depending on where you live, the person that you choose to make medical decisions for you might be called agent, proxy, surrogate, representative attorney in fact or advocate. Choosing someone who will act as your health care agent is extremely important.

You should choose a person who can be trusted to be your advocate if there are disagreements by other family members about your care, can be trusted to make decisions that adhere to your values and wishes, is not someone on your medical team, meets your state’s requirements for health care agent and is willing and able to discuss medical end of life issues with you.

You will need to trust this person to make a decision about what is best for your interests, so it should be someone that you trust and someone who you believe will hold up these important values if and when the time comes. For more information about creating a healthcare power of attorney and naming a health care proxy, it’s a good idea to meet first with an estate planning attorney. Your estate planning lawyer can help connect your values and goals with documents that address your needs.

Schedule a phone consult today for more assistance with your plan.

Do I Really Need a Living Will?

Has it been some time since you sat down with an estate planning lawyer? If you never created a living will, now is the time to find a lawyer who can help you navigate the creation and maintenance of that document. A living will is a key component of your estate planning process.

There are many different estate planning tools and documents available to you. But it is important to understand that not all of these are created equal. Some documents work well together, and others stand on their own to help you accomplish specific tasks. There are also some confusing terms and jargon that can pop up in the process of you planning your estate.

One common misconception is the difference between a will and a living will. Your last will and testament is the document that you use to pass on assets to loved ones and to name a guardian for your minor children. It is the most basic and important estate planning document and people of all ages should have one.

A living will, however, is a form of an advanced directive, which has legal and written instructions regarding the preferences for medical care if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. Advanced directives like a living will are not only for older people, because unexpected life decisions can pop up at any age. Make sure you set aside a time to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer to create both a last will and testament and a living will to accomplish your estate planning goals.

At our NJ estate planning law office, we work with individuals and families who want to protect their wishes. Contact us today for a consultation.

What New Jersey Power of Attorney Agents Should Know

When someone else creates a power of attorney document and names you as the agent, you need to read through the document in full to understand your role. Not all powers of attorney are created equal, and having a clear understanding before you’re call into action will make the entire process easier.

Most powers of attorney become active in a specific situation: the creator of the document is incapacitated. However, someone can also give you power of attorney immediately, such as an adult with a disability or an elderly loved one who needs help right away with their finances. It’s critical to understand which of these applies in your situation, since it will determine the time and circumstances under which you have authority.

For a power of attorney that only becomes active when the creator is unable to speak for themselves and they are still in good health, this doesn’t give you the power to make decisions or handle transactions on their behalf.

Another reason to carefully read through the power of attorney is that the document might include general or specific powers. This determines the role you’ll play, and in either situation, you want to be sure you’re clear about this role and are comfortable with what it means.

A general power of attorney gives you broad authority to act on behalf of the agent. So long as you have this validly executed POA document, you can use it to carry out business and manage their affairs. Where possible, the creator should walk you through what they hoped you would use it for so you’re clear on the scope. With specific powers, this might allow only a very specific action. For example, your CPA might hold a POA to speak with the IRS about your taxes or you might appoint your realtor POA to sign closing documents for you when you sell a house. This means that the agent has very specific and limited powers.

If you want to create a power of attorney for any reason, contact an experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyer today to learn more about what this process entails. Contact our office now for help!

Do You Need a Personal Representative Lawyer?

Did the court recently name you as a personal representative to a loved one’s estate or have you volunteered to serve in this role because there’s no one else in your family or friends circle who can assist with a deceased family member’s estate administration? The process of probate requires that at least one person be responsible for the administration of the loved one’s asset distribution either to creditors or to beneficiaries. This person is known as the personal representative or executor.

As a New Jersey personal representative lawyer can tell you, this process can be involved. A personal representative attorney in your area may be required to handle the most important aspects of probate. In those circumstances, it is strongly recommended that a newly appointed personal representative get help from an experienced attorney. A personal representative lawyer in your area should be someone who has handled probate estates before and someone who can provide insight and support to the personal representative regardless of how long probate takes.

Probate could be as simple as filing some paperwork and distributing what minor assets belong to a loved one over the course of a couple of months but it can also be much more involved, especially if there is a will contest, a trust contest or assets or beneficiaries that are difficult to find. In those circumstances it’s vital to hire an experienced personal representative lawyer to assist with the detailed management and to provide the personal representative with a greater sense of confidence about the order in which they are managing things.  

Fiduciary Duty 

A personal representative has a duty to the beneficiaries of the estate and to the estate itself to handle these important tasks properly. Personal representatives who do not do this could be accused of illegal or unethical behavior and could even be removed from their position. Furthermore they face the risk of being held personally accountable for financial losses sustained by the estate due to their actions. Because of the high stakes involved, it is strongly recommended that you get legal support from a personal representative attorney when handling a loved one’s estate. This is especially important if the estate is complicated.

Funds from the estate can be used to help pay for the attorney’s services and it can make the role of serving as a personal representative much easier because you have a better handle on what to anticipate and some of the common challenges that could pop up. No one should be in the process of handling a loved one’s estate like this on their own and you can do a lot of good for yourself by finding an attorney early.        


What Are the Benefits of Putting Life Insurance into A Trust?

A trust can be created to help manage asset transfer when you pass away in a streamlined and controlled manner. This prompts the question, should you put your life insurance policy into a trust? Naming a living trust as a beneficiary of your life insurance policy does come with some disadvantages.

The benefits of going this route, however, are that it makes it easier for your loved ones to access this money because they do not have to go through probate and the funds are protected from creditors who might step forward during that probate process to try to claim pieces of the estate.

If you are the trustee of your revokable living trust, any asset inside it is technically considered your property because this trust is not irrevocable. Life insurance proceeds in this example would be counted towards your overall estate work if your estate exceeds the IRS threshold for taxes, which is $12.06 million in 2022 and $24.12 for couples. Additionally, funding a trust with life insurance, much like annuity contracts, typically requires a change of ownership form that is submitted to the issuer of the contract.

Life insurance can be used alongside your estate planning or can play a more active role. Overall, it helps you to give your family immediate assets they can use to pay the most important bills and cover things like a mortgage. Deciding on the right amount of policy coverage is key to success, and you might want to revisit that over time, too.

Before placing a life insurance policy into a living trust, speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer about whether this is recommended for you.