What Not to Include When Writing a Will

Your will is the most basic component of your estate plan, but it doesn’t cover all your primary needs. In this official legal document, you can state a lot of things about your intentions, such as who you intend to take over as the executor of your estate and who you’d like to have the responsibility of caring for your minor children if something happens to you.

But it’s a mistake to assume that your will encompasses every aspect of your planning. Leaving your will as the only document might not accomplish all the goals you intended, leaving your loved ones to handle the rest.

Many things pass to loved ones or intended organizations outside of your will. Some do this by default based on the ownership of those assets at the time, but others will require you to fill out additional paperwork. This includes your IRA or your life insurance policy, where you’ll need to direct the managers of those accounts how to handle the transfer of your assets or funds.

In addition to those accounts, there are other things your will cannot accomplish, such as:

  • Adding privacy to your estate plan. A will is public record in your state, so other people can legally request access to that documentation and see what’s in your estate.
  • Pass on property designated as joint with right of survivorship. This will automatically go to the joint owner when you pass away.
  • Pass on property that technically belongs to a living trust. The trust and the trustee are responsible for adhering to the terms of the created trust in these circumstances.

If you have more questions about what a will can do and cannot do, run these questions by an experienced estate planner today.

How Has the Pandemic Impacted Retirement?

Major changes in the world and current events always have the potential to impact retirement plans and schedules. Research has started to emerge indicating how some workers were forced into early retirement as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, those already in retirement were not able to enjoy their normal life since travel and time with family were really limited. Concerns over getting COVID 19 impacted people all over the world, but prompted plenty of people to think about how their savings and retirement plans might have to shift as a result.

Others turned to estate planning during these difficult times in order to ensure that their wishes were properly documented for their loved ones. Economic experts have also chimed in that the far-reaching implications of the pandemic will influence different sectors of the workforce in unique ways. That’s called a K-shaped recovery in which some people and industries are able to thrive during difficult times and others will stall out or fold completely.

Prior to the pandemic, the number of Baby Boomers entering retirement was around 2 million per year. However, in the third quarter of 2020, the number of new retirees had already hit 3.2 million. Whether it was the reminder of mortality provided by the pandemic or a forced retirement as a result of changes in the industry, Boomers entering retirement have to think not just about their day to day costs but also the potential impact of healthcare concerns.

Long term care is one of the biggest financial challenges facing those entering retirement. Most people intend to rely on government services like Medicare or Medicaid but might not have a clear understanding of what these programs do and don’t do. Having a clear plan and an existing relationship with an estate planning lawyer can be critical first steps in ensuring that you’ve either created a plan or evolved it due to changing circumstances and goals.

What Is the Difference Between Estate Planning and Elder Law?

As you look towards your future, you might want to schedule meetings with both an elder lawyer and estate planner, or to find an attorney who practices in both of these spaces. While there is some crossover, certain lawyers focus only on one or another.

As you think about end of life issues and the proper administration and transfer of your assets to your loved ones, you may have questions about the difference between estate planning and elder law.

Both estate planners and elder lawyers cover many similar issues but these are actually different concerns. The primary difference is that elder law planning seeks to preserve your assets and income for use while you are still alive to enable you to maintain your lifestyle or to enable you to have the funds available to you to be as comfortable as possible if you need to go into a nursing home.

Estate planning often considers elder law issues at least at a basic level but is more often concerned with implementing your wishes and then distributing your assets after you pass away in the most tax advantaged and efficient way. These two processes go hand in hand.

Without estate planning documents you make it difficult for your loved ones to receive your assets. Without an elder law plan to protect and preserve your income and assets, you may find that you don’t have an estate to pass onto your loved ones to begin with.


What Happens to a Joint Bank Account When One Person Dies?

Ownership of certain accounts is an important thing to know in the back of your mind if you jointly share one with another person. While both of you are alive, this means you jointly own that entire account.

For most joint accounts, these will be created by the bank as a “joint account with right of survivorship.” This means that when one account owner passes away, the other remaining party on that account will automatically be the full owner of any assets inside.

While some accounts carry automatic rights of survivorship, others do not. That’s why you should always check with your bank directly; many family members have discovered after the fact that what seems like minor paperwork issues can stall the transfer of an account.

Most things associated with the transfer of a joint account are simple, but there are aspects to consider for the person who will inherit the account. For example, any income earned by that account has tax consequences. The tax situation can get even more complex if other assets owned by the decedent are subject to probate or estate taxes, too.

The bottom line is that in cases where you’re properly assigned as the joint owner of the account, you should automatically assume ownership of the account in full.

If you have an account with joint owners but also other assets inside your probate estate, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve properly planned for those assets in terms of a transfer to beneficiaries. An estate planning lawyer in New Jersey can help you figure out what your comprehensive estate plan looks like and how to proceed to accomplish your individual goals.

The Next Normal

A year ago, at the end of March 2020, the S&P 500 was down nearly 20%1 and the world was scrambling into lockdown. Many experts wrote articles telling us where we would be in a year. I don’t remember reading any that said the S&P 500 Index would be up 56% over the next 12 months. But that’s what happened.

I didn’t predict any of that. I never do. Last June, I spoke about the Old Normal and how we should be prepared for market downturns once or twice a decade, while accepting we just can’t know when they’ll happen. We can’t predict financial crises, but we should plan for them. That’s why I always recommend having a trusted financial advisor, a fiduciary who puts your interests first, who can help you understand the range of possible outcomes and create a plan tailored to your goals and acceptable levels of risk.

If you stayed in the market, it might be time for a victory lap. Dimensional’s US Core Equity 2 Portfolio, which holds a diversified mix of broad US equities and is Dimensional’s largest core portfolio, returned nearly 72%, as Exhibit 1 shows. Within the US market, small cap value stocks2 were among the hardest hit. Dimensional’s US Small Cap Value Portfolio was down 39% in the first three months of 2020 and subsequently returned a showstopping 112% over the next 12 months.

Sticking to long-term investment plans in the face of such extreme uncertainty wasn’t easy. I have so much appreciation for what the financial advisors we work with went through to keep their clients in the market, and nothing but admiration for what they achieved.

We were all stressed out last March. There was pressure to “do” something, to make changes just for the sake of reacting. People might get out of the market in an effort to reduce uncertainty. But getting out of the market can actually increase uncertainty because it can force investors to make a difficult decision: choosing the best time to get back in.

This highlights something I’ve long believed to be true: while all investments have risk, many people who think they’re investing are actually gambling. It is a really simple distinction for me; if you’re trying to time short-term market movements, you’re gambling.

Staying focused on a long-term strategy during times like the past year is hard work. Short periods like the first quarter of 2020 and the past year are not signals of future performance, but reminders of just how hard being a long-term investor can be. We didn’t know returns like that would come this year, but we knew we needed to be in the market to capture them when they do show up.

As I’ve said before, every crisis is different, but I think the best way to deal with them is always the same. We can’t control crises, but we can control our response to them. You want to be prepared to deal with the unexpected before it happens. Not when you’re stuck in the middle of it.

What is the Next Normal? It’s expecting uncertainty and committing to a plan that addresses it. It’s rising above the temptation to make changes when things get tough. It’s understanding the difference between investing and gambling. And it’s remembering how good it feels when things work out according to plan.

If you don’t already have a plan that includes crises among the range of possible outcomes, it’s never too late to create one. This is not the last crisis any of us are likely to experience. If we make thoughtful planning the New Normal, we’ll all be ready for the Next Normal.

By: David Booth
Executive Chairman and Founder


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Dimensional funds, please read the prospectus carefully before investing. Prospectuses are available by calling Dimensional Fund Advisors
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Investing risks include loss of principal and fluctuating value. Small cap securities are subject to greater volatility than those in other asset
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Defining Testamentary Capacity

One of the most common reasons for a will contest are claims about testamentary capacity. These are usually brought by heirs who allege that the person who created the will did not have testamentary capacity to create that document. If this challenge is successful in court, the will is deemed invalid.

Capacity is a general term and one that is not subject to a precise definition, but generally refers to someone not being in a sound mind to understand their estate planning documents or decisions. In these cases, documents executed by a person in this state are not valid. 

Multiple factors might be explored to determine whether or not a person is of sound mind at the time they executed their will. This can include information from the doctor regarding the testator’s mental state at that point in time, whether or not the testator understands the nature and extent of the property they own and whether or not the testator understands the ordinary affairs of life. It falls to the person who is alleging that the creator did not have testamentary capacity to illustrate this in court. 

This makes it all the more important to ensure that when crafting your own estate planning documents, you have the support of an experienced estate planning attorney. An estate planning lawyer can help you consider the many different elements that go into crafting your estate plan and special steps that you can take to help minimize the chances that your loved ones will file a will contest after you pass away.       


Four Steps to Review Your Beneficiaries

 Although your will and other estate planning documents can spell out your wishes, they might not cover everything. Beneficiary forms are used to designate who you wish to receive certain pieces of property when you pass away. Many of these pass outside of your will and can therefore, only be updated when you make changes to these forms.

The following four steps can help you accomplish these goals:

  1. Check your insurance and retirement accounts since these are the once that most frequently have beneficiary designations, which will outweigh what’s inside a will.
  2. Don’t leave any beneficiary sections on forms blank since this could mean that when the account goes through probate it will be distributed based on the state’s rules for who gets that property.
  3. If you forget the beneficiaries that you’ve named on accounts or policies created many years ago, you’ll want to make sure that you update these on an annual basis.
  4. Name contingent beneficiaries. These are people who will receive the assets inside the account if your primary beneficiary passes away before you do and you are not able to update the primary beneficiary designation.      

Do you need help with this or other aspects of your estate plan? Contact a New Jersey estate planning lawyer to get a personalized walkthrough of your current plan and to start the process of defining your new goals and intentions. 

The Three Key Groups Involved in Creating a Trust

Trusts are a popular estate planning tool because they can help you accomplish numerous goals at once. At a very simple level, a trust is a legal entity that holds your assets that are intended to benefit others. They help you control how your assets are distributed after your death and help you plan for incapacity.

It usually falls to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to create a trust document to achieve a specific purpose but the basic concept should be understood by anyone who is thinking about leveraging a trust. The three key groups involved in the implementation of a trust include the grantor, the beneficiary and the trustee. The grantor is the person who funds the trust with assets and creates it.

The beneficiary is the person or individuals who benefit from the trust. The trustee is the person who holds legal title to the trust’s assets and administers the provisions of the trust as outlined in the document. The trustee must meet a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the beneficiary. When used properly, trusts can be used to avoid the expense and delay of probate court, shield assets from potential creditors, minimize estate taxes, assist with issues of incapacity and move income tax burdens to beneficiaries in lower tax brackets.

To discover how a trust can be used to help you accomplish your goals, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer.

What to Bring to Your First Estate Planning Lawyer Meeting

So you just set up a time to meet with an estate planning lawyer- now what? What do you need to think about in advance or prepare to bring with you to that first meeting?

The important thing is that you’ve already taken the step to meet with a professional about how to align your estate planning goals with available strategies.

In your first meeting, prepare to bring a rough list of your assets and accounts that you have. This means that you can then discuss what should be part of your overall estate plan.

If you have other documents, such as beneficiary forms, wills, trusts, or other planning tools you created in the past, bring these as well. Whether you decide to revoke those previous creations and instead create new documents in line with your current plans.

If you have information on other items in your taxable estate that do not include account statements, such as vehicles or jewelry, you might want to list these out and also bring with you any papers on appraisals already accomplished by you. This is especially important if you believe that your estate might be close to the federal taxable limit and you want to be clear about whether or not you need advanced planning tools.

When you meet with your estate planning lawyer, you want to know that you have considered all the broad issues together and have a plan that meets your needs now and can also evolve over time to adjust to your life changes.

Another thing to bring with you to your first meeting is a list of questions you have for your lawyer. During your initial consultation, you can make the decision about whether or not this is the right fit for you to work with this lawyer. Bring a notebook to keep track of your answers to these important questions.

Shorting Stocks and the Open Market

In 1984, 33-year-old Gary Kusin started an educational software retailer named Babbage’s. Started in Dallas, Texas, Babbage’s quickly expanded from educational software to focusing on Atari and Nintendo video games. Little did Gary know at the time, but his company would one day become a symbol of a market movement and capture the attention of households, Congress and regulators across the United States. But before we get into what Gary Kusin’s small company became, we need to understand a few key terms and mechanics of a stock market.

Stock markets are exchanges, and in their simplest form are simply open-market auctions. Think Sotheby’s or a local estate auction, where potential buyers raise their paddle until only one buyer remains – but at a much larger scale. Thousands of buyers meet thousands of sellers every day through brokers on stock exchanges,(2) and the items of interest are shares of a company’s stock. Generally, none of the money in these transactions goes to the company; rather the two parties barter for existing shares of the stock. Most of this activity has moved digitally, but the fundamentals are the same: every transaction has a buyer and a seller, and presumably both sides think they are getting a good deal.

Occasionally an investor may see a stock that they believe is overvalued. In other words, they believe that buyers are willing to pay more for that stock than what it is actually worth. For those brave investors who are so convicted that a stock price is trading higher than its true value, a process exists for them to bet against the company. Through a broker, the investor connects with another investor who owns shares of the stock, borrows the shares and then sells them. This is called shorting the stock. Assuming the price of the stock declines, the investor can buy back the shares at a lower price and return them to the lender, pocketing the difference in price. However, just as a bank may monitor a borrower’s creditworthiness, the lender of the shares needs protection to ensure that the borrower will eventually be able to repay the loan. The broker of the deal monitors how much it would cost for the borrower to purchase the shares compared to how much money the investor has available in their account. If the price of the stock rises too much, the broker can demand the investor either put more cash into their account or return the shares. If the investor is forced to return the shares, they must go back out to the market, find a buyer willing to sell, and repurchase them. This, known as a margin call in financial jargon, essentially just protects the lender against someone taking on a loan they can’t repay.

So, what does all this have to do with a software retailer from the 80s? In 1999, fifteen years after being founded, Barnes & Noble purchased Babbage’s for nearly $200 million.(4) Three years later, Babbage’s was combined with other similar retailers, and the company went public under a new name, GameStop.(5) Now, nearly 20 years after going public, GameStop has become a stock market phenomenon with the stock price jumping from $18.84 on December 31, 2020 to $325 at the end of January, a 1,625% jump in a single month.

For those watching the financial media (or social media for the matter), the obvious question is how can this happen? Well, a lot of investors were betting against GameStop at the end of last year – a lot. In fact, every share of GameStop had been borrowed and sold, at least once. In January, more investors started to take interest in buying shares of GameStop, partially spurred by speculative investors in an online forum, and that demand pushed the price of GameStop higher. As the price continued to climb, the investors who had borrowed shares were forced to either put more money into their account or buy shares at a higher price to close their loan. As the price of GameStop’s stock climbed, more investors bought shares to cover their loans, which created more demand for shares of GameStop’s stock, which continued to push the price higher. This phenomenon is called a short squeeze, and the cycle continued throughout January, with the stock hitting a high of $483 on January 28.

What does this all mean for your portfolio? Honestly, not a lot if you are our Investment Management client. You own thousands of stocks to mitigate the risk of any short-term dysfunction of any single name in the markets. Investors who bet against GameStop were wrong, at least for now, and they had to buy a lot of GameStop stock to make up for their error. If margin calls didn’t exist, January may have looked very different for the price of GameStop’s stock. But, margin calls exist to protect lenders and they functioned as expected. Thousands of buyers met thousands of sellers, and they agreed to exchange shares of a stock for an agreed-upon price. And if you are not our client & need to know what it does mean, feel free to contact us.

We know that on any given day, the stock market can look like a casino with random outcomes. But, when viewed over longer horizons, the outcomes are logical. That is why we continue to encourage our clients to look past the daily noise – no matter how entertaining – and keep a long-term focus. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t think that it’s a good time to buy GameStop’s stock.


Neel Shah



This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal or tax advice. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. Information from sources deemed to be reliable but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. IRN-21-1776

Can I Leave Behind an Unequal Inheritance?

Do you have questions about leaving behind unequal amounts or assets for your loved ones?

It might be simpler for the vast majority of older parents to leave the exact same inheritance or asset value to each adult child. However, equal is not always the best fit. Many more people are confronting this question in light of the pandemic. You may be concerned about protecting a child who needs it more or paying back a child who helped with caregiving in your older years. 

Although leaving equal inheritances might be the default method and still the most popular, many people are thinking about the benefits of using different amounts. A recent study by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management found that two thirds of Americans age 55 and above said that a child who gave them care should receive a bigger inheritance than those children who did not contribute. 

The study also found that one out of four parents said that an adult daughter or son who had children should get more than a child who did not. Equity will be different for different families but having a conversation with an estate planning lawyer can help you figure out the right solution for you. 

Unequal inheritances can sometimes trigger sibling infighting after a parent passes away. This is particularly true of cases in which family members believe that undue influence by a party who received more could trigger a contest of the will. For more support, make sure that you work directly with an experienced estate planning lawyer.   

What Do I Need to Do to Amend a Revocable Living Trust?

The very definition of a revocable trust means that you are able to make changes to it in a few different ways. You can, for example, prepare and sign a trust amendment that is valid under your applicable state law.

This makes an amendment or an update to the existing trust so if further substantial changes are needed you might wish to revoke the original trust agreement and create a new trust. The second option available to you is to sign a complete trust restatement valid under your state law. 

Your third option is the most expensive, time-consuming, and radical. This involves revoking the original trust agreement and any amendments, then transferring the assets that were stored in the revoked trust back into your own name. You could then create a brand new revocable living trust if you wanted. This third option might only be required if you are making significant changes to the initial trust agreement.

In most cases, restatements or amendments are appropriate if you just wish to add or change beneficiaries, if you divorce or if you marry or have a child. Make sure that you have a relationship with a trusted estate planning lawyer to protect your best interests.   

Tales from the Crypto: How to Think About Bitcoin

“Everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers.”—HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, March 11, 2018

Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies (now numbering in the thousands) are the subject of much debate and fascination. Given bitcoin’s dramatic price changes, it is not surprising that many are speculating about its possible role in a portfolio.

In its relatively short existence, bitcoin has proved extraordinarily volatile, sometimes gaining or losing more than 40% in price in a month or two. Any asset subject to such sharp swings may be catnip for traders but of limited value either as a reliable medium of exchange (to replace cash) or as a risk-reducing or inflation-hedging asset in a diversified portfolio (to replace bonds).

Assessing the merits of bitcoin as an investment can be problematic. Adding it to a portfolio could mean paring back the allocation to investments such as stocks, property, or fixed income. The owner of stocks or real estate generally expects to receive future income from dividends or rent, even though the size and timing of the payoff may be uncertain. A bondholder generally expects to receive interest payments as well as the return of principal. In contrast, holding bitcoin is similar to holding gold as an investment. Even if bitcoin or gold are held for decades, the owner may never receive more bitcoin or gold, and unlike stocks and bonds, it is not clear that bitcoin offers investors positive expected returns.

Putting aside squabbles over the future value of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, there are other issues investors should consider:

  • Bitcoin is not backed by an issuing authority and exists only as computer code,
    generally kept in a so-called “digital wallet,” accessible through a password chosen by the user. Many of us have forgotten or misplaced computer passwords from time to time and have had to contact the sponsor to restore access. No such avenue is available to holders of bitcoin. After a limited number of password attempts, a user can permanently lose access. Since there is no central authority responsible for bitcoin, there is no recourse for the forgetful owner: a recent New York Times article profiled the holder of more than $200 million worth of bitcoin that he can’t retrieve. His anguish
    is apparently not unusual—a prominent cryptocurrency consulting firm estimates that 20% of all outstanding bitcoin represents stranded assets unavailable to their rightful owners.
  • Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange launched in 2010, was at one time the world’s largest bitcoin intermediary, handling over one million accounts in 239 countries and more than 90% of global bitcoin transactions in 2013. It suspended trading and filed for bankruptcy in February 2014, announcing that hundreds of thousands of bitcoins had been lost and likely stolen.
  • The UK Financial Conduct Authority cited a number of concerns as it prohibited the sale of “cryptoasset” investment products to retail investors last year. Among them were the inherent nature of the underlying assets, which have no reliable basis for valuation; the presence of market abuse and financial crimes in cryptoasset trading; extreme price volatility; an inadequate understanding by retail consumers of crypto assets; and the lack of a clear investment need for investment products referencing them

The financial services industry has a long tradition of innovation, and cryptocurrency and the technology surrounding it may someday prove to be a historic breakthrough. For those who enjoy the thrill of speculation, trading bitcoin may hold appeal. But those in search of a sound investment should consider the concerns of the Financial Conduct Authority above before joining the excitement.

By: Weston Wellington
Vice President


Resources: The opinions expressed are those of the author and are subject to change. The commentary above pertains to bitcoin cryptocurrency. Certain
bitcoin offerings may be considered a security and may have different attributes than those described in this paper. Dimensional does not offer bitcoin.

This material is not to be construed as investment advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any security or currency. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. Stocks are subject to market fluctuation and other risks. Bonds are subject to increased risk of loss of principal during periods of rising interest rates and other risks. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss.

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What Should I Ask My Elderly Family Member About End of Life Wishes?

Having a conversation around the topic of estate planning is often difficult for adult children. This is because it means coming to terms with your parents’ own mortality and discussing issues on which you might not agree.

Even though the subject might be uncomfortable to broach, it is good to have this conversation with your parents well before you need to take action on any of these specific wishes, otherwise your parents’ estate plan is incomplete without these clear directives. Although the form those directives will take depend on the state in which they live, they might include things like;

  • Physician orders for life sustaining treatment, which regards your loved one’s wishes about what kind of treatment they do or do not want to receive.
  • A living will with details about termination of life support under specific conditions.
  • The appointment of a health care proxy who can make medical decisions on behalf of your parent if they become incapable of making them on their own.
  • An advanced or medical directive that explains what kind of care they would like.

All of these circumstances can be very unwelcome to deal with in the moment but it is important to have a plan in advance so that you can be able to take the necessary next steps should something happened to your elderly parent.

What is NJ Asset Protection Planning?

What would happen if someone sues you? Do you have a plan? Or are you simply hoping this never happens to you?

While this situation can happen to anyone, certain people are perceived as bigger threats for lawsuits or creditors than others. Those in this situation take proactive steps to create an asset protection plan to decrease their overall risks.

The process of asset protection planning involves making critical decisions today that will protect your business, yourself, and your hard-earned assets from loss due to lawsuits, bankruptcies, or creditors period. This form of legal planning is especially important for business owners and professionals whose personal assets could be threatened in the event of a claim of someone else.

Federal as well as state laws exempt certain assets from the claims of creditors. You can discuss with which of your assets might be exempted from creditor claims. New Jersey means that you must use the state exemptions.

Because federal bankruptcy exemptions are not available, it can make sense to enhance your protection by converting those non exempt assets into exempted assets. Finally, if you’re an entrepreneur with a business as a sole proprietorship, you may need to schedule the support of an experienced New Jersey asset protection planning lawyer.



What You Need to Know About Revoking a Power of Attorney


If you’re no longer happy with the person you’ve named as a power of attorney or the powers you gave them in that document, it’s not enough to renounce that verbally. You need to take the extra step to clarify what this will look like by destroying the former document and creating a new one while also updating anyone who knew about the previous arrangement.

You have the right to revoke an existing power of attorney at any time, but it’s recommended that you work with an estate planning lawyer to do so. Your local estate planning lawyer can give you clarity around the action steps you took and give you peace of mind that you’ve done the necessary steps to revoke this document properly.

Make a statement in writing about your intention to formally revoke the old document so there is no confusion. When you right this, make sure to state that you are of sound mind and understand the implications of revoking this old document. You should mention the name of the original agent and the date this other document was executed.

Send a copy to the old agent and any institutions that had this on file so that you can fully protect the revocation, especially if you are executing a new POA document. More questions about crafting or revoking a POA document, sit down with your lawyer and discuss your next steps.

When Should I Use a Corporate Trustee as My Successor Trustee?

A successor trustee is the individual or entity appointed to handle trust affairs should you become incapacitated or pass away. If you are not sure that a family member or friend you intended to appoint in the role of successor trustee could handle this responsibility well or you fear that it could only spark further family conflict, you may be able to avoid some of these problems by using a trust company or the trust division of a bank.

No matter who you choose, your trustee should be professional and competent and have good skills when it comes to record keeping and decision making for distributing money to beneficiaries. A professional trustee might make the most sense in your case if you have a trust that is intended to last for a long time such as one that would provide for grandchildren.

Another example when it makes sense to choose a corporate trustee is if you have very valuable assets. In most simple revocable living trusts, however, that are designed for avoiding probate, it might not make sense to pay a professional because professional management in a successor trustee role is expensive.

Many trust companies won’t accept accounts that are below a certain minimum and will charge a percentage of the assets as the fee. Some of the potential downsides of going with professional management might include;

  • Not accepting other kinds of assets beside cash.
  • The management might not be as personal as that from a friend or family member.
  • Beneficiaries might have to deal with new people frequently as bank or trust company employees come and go.
  • Beneficiaries may not get a quick decision when they ask for trust funds since this will need to go through the other entity.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in New Jersey?

Many people have different conceptions about what is required to create a will. Mistakes made in the will creation or signing process can prove problematic for your loved ones so it’s important to educate yourself first and to schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer.

Although you do not need an attorney to create a New Jersey will, you might want to speak with an attorney if you are concerned about taking specific steps like disinheriting someone or you are worried about family members contesting your will. The basic requirements for signing a will in New Jersey include:

  • This document must be signed in front of two witnesses and,
  • Per New Jersey statutes 3(b):3-2, the witnesses must sign the will within a reasonable time after the testator has created or acknowledged it.

You are not required to notarize your will to make it legal. New Jersey does, however, allow you to make your will self-proving and you will need to obtain a notary in the event that you wish to do that.

If you want your will to be a self-proving will, since it might speed up probate and the court is eligible to accept the will without contacting the signature witnesses, you and your witnesses will need to go to a notary and sign an affidavit that states who each of you are and that you all knew that you were signing a will.


How Can I Change My New Jersey Will?

Have you had significant changes in your life circumstances that are making you rethink your existing estate planning documents? You are not alone. There are many different reasons why you might contemplate updating your New Jersey will.

In any of these cases, make sure you set aside time to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer in New Jersey about your options. You may want to make changes to your will if:

  • You’ve adopted a child or had a child since you first created your documents.
  • You’ve gotten divorced or married since initially creating this will.
  • A personal representative or trustee passes away before you.
  • You have acquired a property that you wish to pass in a very particular manner rather than inside the terms of your will.

The process matters when you make updates to your will. Unfortunately, many people believe they can informally change their document by doing things like marking up an existing will or including an additional note, but these attempts are often unsuccessful. You have two options to update your will in New Jersey. The first of these is writing a new document and the second is adding an amendment to the will. If you are changing numerous terms inside the will, it is recommended that you create a new one to replace that older document. An amendment is used when you want to make a relatively straightforward change to a will. Your estate planning attorney can be the first one to help you update or revoke your will.

A knowledgeable New Jersey estate planning attorney can talk to you about whether an amendment or a freshly drafted will is the most appropriate way to view this situation. Schedule a consultation today with a New Jersey estate planning lawyer.


How Will a House Deed Get Transferred Upon the Death of a Parent In NJ?

When a parent passes away, the children of the deceased as well as the executor of the estate may have certain challenges when attempting to liquidate the estate’s assets. An estate planning attorney in New Jersey can be helpful for guiding executors through this process.

In plenty of estates, the home belonging to the parent may be the biggest asset inside the estate. It requires special involvement and is relatively illiquid. The transfer of real estate is not always easy. How the deed is titled at the time the person passes away will have a specific impact on how the property can be transferred. If you don’t currently have a copy of the deed, contact the county recorder’s office. There are several different types of deed issues that can impact transfer. These include:

  • Joint tenancy. If the home was owned in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety, this joint owner or surviving spouse automatically becomes the new property owner and a new deed is not required.
  • Sole ownership. The property has to go through probate before passing to the heir or heirs designated in the will.
  • In trust. Property can eb left to a variety of trusts and in this case a new deed would have to be prepared by the estate executor and recorded in the county clerk’s office.
  • Without joint tenancy. If the will specifies another person or people to whom legal ownership of the property should pass, a new deed will be required.
  • Fiduciary authority. The executor has the right to dispose of the property at a private or public sale unless the will specifies another disposition.

The support of an experienced estate planning attorney can be very helpful in navigating this complex process.