What to Know About Telling Your Kids After You Have Done Your Estate Planning

Estate planning is a very personal process but because of that, many people choose to put it off until it is too late. Thereby, leaving their family members to try to pick up the pieces after a financial disaster caused by someone’s mental or physical incapacitation or sudden death. For these reasons, it’s important to at least have a conversation about the benefits of estate planning and how you’ll break the news about what you decided to your kids. 

Many people are confused about just how much information they should give to their children about estate planning and whether or not these documents should have copies made and given to the kids. There is no one-size-fits-all answer about how much information should be shared with children since every person’s circumstances are different. Many people share a lot of information with their clients.

Most people who meet with a probate lawyer after a person has passed away within their family already know what’s in the estate plan but might not have copies of the critical documents. Usual recommendations from estate planning attorneys are to keep the estate planning documents in a secure, accessible and safe place.

These documents are extremely important and they may be needed someday and in the heat of the moment, you want to ensure that everyone has access to them.

Giving copies of these estate planning documents to an experienced estate planning attorney and advising key family members who may be stepping in in the event of an incapacitation or sudden death, about how to find this information, can be instrumental in minimizing the challenges typically associated with estate planning.

If you have a plan developed well in advance and things are organized in a clear and easy to locate manner, you are that much more likely to be effective with communicating these goals to family members and enabling them to find this critical information when the time comes about. Bear in mind that your decision about how much to share with your family members regarding your estate plan is ultimately up to you and that many people choose customized decisions based on how comfortable they feel with the relevant family members.

You can ask questions of your estate planning attorney to help figure out what may be in your best interests.


What Are the Four Most Common Mistakes that Celebrities Make?

Each time a celebrity passes away, we typically get the opportunity to learn from his or her mistakes. Read on to learn more about the four most common mistakes made by celebrities. It’s currently being reported that pop star Prince may have died without a will and this is one of the biggest estate planning problems. estate planning attorney NJ

No Will

Most individuals want to have some say over how their assets are distributed after they pass away. So, it can even be more shocking realize that as many as 2/3rds of the adults do not have a simple will. Singer Amy Winehouse passed away without a will and left behind a $6.7 million estate.

Failing To Update Their Estate Plans

Having a trust or a will is an important first step as long as it reflects your current wishes. Learn from the estate of Michael Crichton for whom the 2007 will was never updated.

When he passed away, his  sixth wife was pregnant at the time but his will had language disinheriting future children.

Failing to Set Up a Trust

Without a private trust, the details of how you chose to pass things on can be visible to anyone. Whitney Houston’s estate was largely visible to the public as a result of this problem.

Forgetting to Plan

Some people are under the impression that  estate planning is only for handling your affairs after you pass away. There are also plenty of estate planning documents like a power of attorney to help you in the event that you become incapacitate while you are still alive.

Busting Common Trust Myths

Used properly, a trust can be the right tool for managing or transferring your assets. Here are three common myths about trusts to help you get the truth.

Busting Common Trust Myths

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Trusts Are Too Complicated

Some believe that trusts take too much work in order to get the most out of them. Assets have to be moved into the trust, usually using a formal designation of ownership from one or more people into the trust. If assets are not precisely retitled, surviving family members might have to go through probate anyways. Avoiding probate is one common reason to use a trust. The bottom line is that trusts don’t have to be that complicated if you structure them properly under the guidance of an experienced attorney.

Only Rich People Need Them

Even if you’re of limited means, there could be benefits to using a trust. Avoiding probate by paying the upfront costs to hire an estate planning attorney to draft your trust could be well worth the payoff in the long run. Trusts can make it much easier for your beneficiaries to receive the assets you’d like them to have.

You Don’t Need a Trust Until Death

A trust developed during your life can outline your plans for handling your affairs if you were to become incapacitated. There are big long term advantages to setting up a trust that works for you while you are still alive.

Interesting in putting together a trust? Call us at 732-521-9455 or through email at info@lawesq.net to begin.

Summer Wrap Up: Estate Planning For Your Vacation Homes

The close of another summer is a great time to think about your future plans for any family-owned vacation homes. It can be really hard to sell a property where it requires approval from all children, and it’s often difficult to make these “equally split” arrangements work.

Summer Wrap Up Estate Planning For Your Vacation Homes

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Start by thinking about your goal for the home: do you want it sustained for future generations, do you want it to become the property of just one or two children, or do you not have anyone to establish as the asset recipient at all? These are important questions that will help guide the future of your vacation home.

Trusts can be a great way to manage the future of vacation homes. They can be used to help pay for expenses or create a usage schedule, which is especially helpful when there could be multiple owners. To figure out the proper amount to put aside for expenses, you can create a list of what’s needed on an annual basis, including property taxes, insurance, routine maintenance, and repairs. This can help to eliminate arguments later on.

In the trust, it’s also important to outline the rules under which the house can be sold. This should be done even if there are no immediate plans to sell the house. Talk with an estate planning attorney to determine the best way to structure your vacation home future plans and possible trust. Reach out to us at info@lawesq.net or over the phone at 732-521-9455.

Newlywed Estate Planning

While there is a great deal to celebrate getting ready for your wedding, don’t neglect this excellent opportunity to delve into your estate planning as well. Unfortunately, as you may already know, accidents can happen at any time. Of course we all hope that nothing impacts your new family and celebrations, but it is critical that you discuss your plans with your new spouse and outline your plans early. Remember that it will be much easier to update them later on once you have decided on the proper documents, but that you should never neglect putting your plan together entirely.

Newlywed Estate Planning

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You can begin with small steps, like changing your account beneficiaries. This is one of the easiest things to do in your overall estate plan, but there are big ramifications if you’re adding on your new spouse. Do it early. Make sure you update your life insurance, IRA, and 401k accounts, including any others that may have beneficiaries listed in the event that something happens to you.

Your next step should be to look over any wills that both of you have and to ensure that each individual has a solid will reflecting his or her current wishes. Powers of attorney and medical directives are also crucial for new spouses who may be updating their information from the past to reflect their new marriage. For more ideas about transitioning your estate planning to married life, contact us through email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Do I Need a Trust?

As trusts have gotten more popular and evolved in type to appeal to a lot of people, so now you might be under the impression that you must have a trust. While it’s not for everyone, there are so many trusts out there that it’s very likely you could find one that will help you to meet your goals, including to protect your assets and minimize taxes.

Do I Need a Trust?

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Major liquid assets, setting up care for a child with special needs, and a variety of real estate ownership are a few of the reasons that people might initially turn to trusts. If you’re a resident of a state with a high state estate tax, income tax or probate costs, you’re likely to be concerned about the hit of taxes, too. This refers to situations where a federal estate tax is factored into your asset value, but an additional taxable event occurs at the state level. Without proper planning, you could find that the value of the assets you have worked so hard to build is extremely vulnerable to these taxes and costs.

Contact our offices today to learn more about how these trusts can help you. Send us a message at info@lawesq.net or call us 732-521-9455.

Estate Planning Tips for the Blended Family

Second or third marriages can be very fulfilling, but they also bring their own set of challenges when it comes to estate planning. There could be children from previous relationships and children that have been born into the new marriage. If both parties were previously divorced, this can complicate property and other assets that have been brought into the marriage.

Estate Planning Tips for the Blended Family
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You want to approach this issue by thinking about your individual estate planning goals first. Your assets, like investments, retirement plans, brokerage accounts, jewelry, cars, and houses, should all be considered. If you have not recently updated your beneficiary designations, you will want to consider whether your goals have changed as a result of a new marriage. Frequently people forget to update the beneficiaries on these important accounts after getting remarried, so it’s important to schedule an annual review with your estate planning specialist so that your documents always reflect your most current goals.

If there are certain items that you want your children to receive, make sure that you clearly note these items in your estate planning documents. Leaving all of the property to the surviving spouse may not be the best approach because it doesn’t ensure that those children will actually receive those benefits. In many cases, it’s most appropriate to use trusts to provide for the spouse while making separate plans for the children to receive the property. To learn more about our special planning for blended families, reach out to us through email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

For The Ladies: Special Estate Planning Considerations for Women

For the most part, financial planning and estate planning tools are very similar for men and for women, but there are several facts that result in special planning considerations for women as well. The root of these considerations is that in later years, women may face their own set of challenges.

For The Ladies Special Estate Planning Considerations for Women
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To start with, women tend to live longer than men do. A woman may overlook the fact that odds are in her favor for outliving her spouse. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, nearly 40 percent of women over the age of 65 are widowed. That longevity may also lead to higher medical bills. When your financial future is built on a husband’s pension or Social Security benefits, the woman can face major challenges as a widow.

Women are also much more likely to provide care to children and elderly parents. Many women tend to take on this role for older parents, which can be emotionally challenging and a financial adjustments.

Women looking at estate planning should seriously consider where their income will come from in the future and what, if any, benefits they will be eligible for. If women are looking at caring for their own elderly parents, it’s also worth a look into the parent’s planning to see whether they have made plans for long-term care or factored in the financial aspects already.

A little advance work can go a long way in helping women live long and comfortable lives. To learn more about estate planning, email info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

It’s not all about the cash: Passing on Wealth and Wisdom

It might feel overwhelming to put together your estate plan, but it’s a good tool for you as well as your children. Taking care of your needs early on can encourage children to plan for the long term and to consider their own estate plans. One of the biggest hurdles with regard to estate planning, in fact, is that there’s a general stigma when it comes to talking about money. Simply setting aside some time for the conversation is a valuable process.

Its not all about the cash Passing on Wealth and Wisdom
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Many people that estate planning is simply for the management of their assets after they pass away, but that’s simply not true: it plays just as vital a role during your life, too. If you become incapacitated, a comprehensive estate plan will lay out your wishes clearly for your family members and other stakeholders. It’s also a tool that can be used to reduce risk and minimize taxes while protecting wealth- all of which are just as valuable while you are living.

One mistake to avoid in thinking about your estate planning is in seeing your wealth only for what it can do for the next generation in a positive light. Sometimes, there’s another impact that’s often forgotten- what your assets do to them when it comes to unintended consequences. Taxes can take a big hit on the assets if plans are put into place in advance, and gifts may even cause arguments between family members. Not every child, for example, will react the same way to learning that Mom or Dad has left a gift behind.

Estate planning is just as much about your mindset and passing on your wisdom as it is your wealth. To help create a living legacy that makes the most sense for your family, call us at 732-521-9455 or reach us through email at info@lawesq.net .

Special Planning for Second Marriages: Lessons Learned From Casey Kasem

The recent news hoopla over Casey Kasem illustrates an important lesson for planning your own estate: things may change when you throw a second marriage into the mix, calling for a re-evaluation of your plans. There are many things that should be addressed in estate planning where a second marriage has occurred. Doing so will help prevent problems and lay the groundwork for plans that actually carry out your wishes rather than spark legal battles among family members.

Special Planning for Second Marriages Lessons Learned From Casey Kasem
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Medical directives, powers of attorney, and even decisions about burial planning should all be considered in your estate plan if you are involved in a second or third marriage. This avoids conflict between family members that can make the grieving process even more difficult.

When it comes to passing down assets, this is especially complex in a second marriage. Who should get the money? Should it be split between children? Does it go to the first wife in one lump sum and the remainder is split among the children? There’s a lot of tension that can arise if you don’t think about the answers to these questions well in advance. Conflicts tend to crop up especially when a non-parent spouse is receiving assets that children feel entitled to in one sense or another. The more clarity there is in your planning, the better. Once you’ve met with an estate planning professional, it’s important that you in some sense communicate what you have outlined to family member stakeholders. To learn more about estate planning techniques for second and third marriages, email us at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455

Estate Planning For Your House: Irrevocable Trusts

A transfer of assets outright may not be the best solution as this has been known to create undesirable outcomes. In the case when planning to avoid probate and conservatorships, it makes more sense to use an irrevocable trust. In many cases, the biggest and/or most important asset to be transferred is a home.

Estate Planning For Your House Irrevocable Trusts
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An outright transfer could cause problems: if it ever becomes necessary or desired to sell the property to buy a new one elsewhere, this can be difficult. Also the new owners might lose the residence to creditors or divorce or sell it on their own. That’s why it may be preferable to use an irrevocable trust to ensure protections and flexibility in planning. This can be done using lifetime retaining benefits held by the transferor.

There are benefits to using an irrevocable trust to manage the house transfer. First, the residence is protected from the threats of creditors or ex-spouses of death beneficiaries or the trustee. Second, if there is interest or need to sell the home to acquire a new one, the trustee can navigate this move fairly easily, If drafted properly. To talk more about how to plan for the transfer of your home, we can help. Email us at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Your IRA: Top Tips For Passing Down Your IRA To Children

Those who have spent a good amount of time contributing to their IRA might have questions when it’s time to decide beneficiaries. For example, is it best to stretch out the payouts over a lifetime to make the most of tax benefits or to withdraw the entire amount?

Your IRA Top Tips For Passing Down Your IRA To Children
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In many cases, an immediate emptying of the account is not in the best interest of the beneficiary, and it’s also something that parents may want to help their children avoid. Often, it’s difficult to suddenly manage a large sum of money, making Mom and Dad’s IRA benefits run out long before expected. Since many parents want to guard against this where possible, it’s important to note that two different strategies can help to stall an immediate withdrawal of all assets on the death of a parent.

One option is to name a trust as the IRA beneficiary, giving a trustee the power to distribute assets, but you must work with an experienced estate planner who knows how to craft a document that qualifies under IRS rules. Another option to consider is setting up the IRA as a trust account, giving trustee powers to the IRA provider, which is known as a “trusteed IRA”. This option, however, does have some downsides: higher fees and requirements for minimum balances are two of those disadvantages.

Options exist to help you plan for your future and to help beneficiaries receive assets in a somewhat-structured manner. To learn more about these planning tools, call us at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Married Couples without Children: Estate Planning Recommendations

Your individual estate plan is going to depend largely on your personal situation and the goals you have for your assets. That being said, one major factor that can alter your estate planning situation tremendously is children. Without children, some couples might wonder what estate planning options could be used.

Married Couples without Children Estate Planning Recommendations
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One such example is a QTIP trust, or a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust. This trust gives a benefit to the surviving spouse that keeps the assets out of the hands of creditors. Using this trust properly, assets from the trust that are still present after the surviving spouse passes away would then be given to beneficiaries stipulated by the spouse who passed away first.

A big benefit to this approach is that the personal representative of the first spouse (referring to the spouse who passes away first) can exert some flexibility over the best way to proceed. A partial QTIP election or portability election are the choices that a personal representative might consider after the first spouse passes away. One factor to bear in mind is ensuring that the applicable exclusion amount of the first spouse doesn’t go to waste, which can be addressed in planning strategies with your estate planning specialist.

Your family structure and how involved your family is in your own estate plans strongly dictates what needs you have when you come to the table to discuss your goals and concerns. To learn more, email us at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Changing Your Power of Attorney

What if you already executed a power of attorney some years ago and now want to change that person? Is it as simple as revoking the old one and creating a new one? Make sure you’ve investigated whether your power of attorney is “durable” or “springing”. What’s the difference?

Changing Your Power of Attorney
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A springing POA is a person who has not yet assumed his or her position yet, making it much easier to change your plans. If you named someone else as a backup and would prefer that person now be your POA instead, you can amend your existing power of attorney to reflect this change in plans.

If the POA is actually a durable attorney, meaning that this individual was empowered to act on your behalf immediately after the document was executed, you may need to do a little more work. You should use certified and first class mail to notify the original individual that he or she has been removed as POA in case there is a dispute down the line about termination and institution of a new POA. If you believe that this person is out there exercising authority under your old Power of Attorney, you’ll need to take responsibility for contacting banks or other institutions where this is an issue. Make sure you have your estate planning attorney keep copies of all your documents on file in case there are any questions. To begin or change a power of attorney and any other estate planning documents, call us at 732-521-9455 today or request a meeting via email at info@lawesq.net.

Do You Have a Digital Fortune?

The estate planning landscape is changing, and it’s because our approach to determining assets is changing, too. According to a survey by McAfee, Americans believe they own an average of about $54,000 in digital assets. Curious about a digital asset? What about your big ITunes collection? Downloaded resources and books on your Kindle? What about Paypal? Bitcoins? Or even more sentimental accounts, like a genealogy archive that’s helped you to identify relatives?

Do You Have a Digital Fortune
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Getting access to these materials can be difficult after a family member passes away. Your email account materials might be deleted before family members can even access the material and in the meantime, your accounts could be exposed to online theft risk.

This is where a Digital Estate Plan steps in. It will help your will executor carry out your wishes in the distribution of your assets. This can be a complex process, since many of the sites mentioned about base their service agreements on federal laws. Nevertheless, it’s an important exercise to gather up an inventory of material you might like your family to be able to access if something happens to you. At the least, your family will be aware of the information’s existence. Login information and passwords should also be included with this material.

Make sure you’re up to date with estate planning laws and trends by working with an experienced attorney. Reach out to us to get started at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

For Student Loans – Read the Fine Print: Risks for Student Loan Borrowers and Co-Signers

The details matter when it comes to getting a signature on your student loan agreement: it turns out that some private student loans have a caveat for what happens if the co-signer passes away. In some private loans, the student or recent graduate has to pay up if their relative passes away- immediately and in full. If the borrower can’t make that payment, he or she faces a big hit on their credit rating.

For Student Loans Read the Fine Print Risks for Student Loan Borrowers and Co-Signers
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Many students who have to use private loans to finance their education might not even notice the provision, but it’s legal. Receiving a notice for demanded payment in full often terrifies a recent graduate, who may ignore the notice and suddenly feel buried financially. Borrowers can have their loans released after a few years of earnings and positive credit history, but they also have an option to transfer to another co-signer. Unfortunately, not many students are aware of these options right away.

When it comes to student loans, it’s important to read all of the stipulations in the loan agreement, especially when it’s a private lender. Make sure you walk through all of your options if a parent does pass away, too. No one plans for the situation where a parent or relative passes away in this manner, but it’s worth factoring into your general estate plan if you are a co-signer on someone else’s loan. Ensure that the borrower knows and has a plan for how they would handle such a situation. To learn more about a comprehensive estate plan, contact us through email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

The N.Y. State of Mind: Changes to New York Gift Tax and Estate Laws

The NY State of Mind Changes to New York Gift Tax and Estate LawsAt the end of March, Governor Cuomo approved changes to New York’s estate and gift tax laws while also making amendments to income tax rules. One of the most important changes was in relation to the estate tax exclusion amount. The amount that an individual can pass without being hit by the New York estate tax, which was previously $1 million, has now been increased based on the follow specifications:

  • For those individuals who pass away between April 1, 2014 and April 1, 2015, the exclusion amount is increased to $2,062,500
  • For those individuals who pass away between April 1, 2015 and April 1, 2016, the exclusion amount is increased to $3,125,000.
  • For those individuals who pass away between April 2, 2016 and April 1, 2017, the exclusion amount is $4,187,500
  • For those individuals who pass away between April 1, 2017 and January 1, 2019, the exclusion amount is $5,250,000.

Starting in 2019, the exclusion amount will be indexed for inflation purposes. Presently, the New York estate tax will stay at 16 percent. It’s also worth knowing that there’s an estate tax cliff for those with taxable estates between 100 percent and 105 percent of the state exclusion amount. There’s never been a better time to meet with an estate planning specialist to ensure that you are maximizing protection of your assets. Since estate planning and tax rules are complex and constantly changing, an annual review is recommended so that your documents and plans are fully up to date. To capitalize on your assets with a comprehensive estate plan, contact us at 732-521-9455 or email us at info@lawesq.net

Planning for an Abroad Retirement? Keep These Tips in Mind

A growing number of people are hoping to cash in on their retirement dreams by living abroad. Many retirees even keep their U.S. bank accounts and simply set up plans to live abroad, and retiring in another country and help to significantly reduce retirement expenses. In some cases, retirees may even be able to live abroad on just $25,000 a year.

Planning for an Abroad Retirement Keep These Tips in Mind
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You’ll need to be prepared to set up a new bank account abroad so that you can meet routine expenses. It’s also a very wise move to check out what link you’ll be using to transfer funds from U.S. accounts. Without doing your research, you might find that you’re hit with extremely high fees for transferring to another bank and especially into another currency. You must be prepared with a strategy to monitor currency risk, since whether it makes sense to convert assets over or keep them in your home currency largely depends on the market.

You also want to factor in taxes. You’ll have to keep filing a U.S. tax return and probably another one in your new country. The IRS will generally give you credit for taxes that you have paid abroad, but that is not true for all cases. You’ll want to set up a personalized meeting with an estate planning specialist before banking on paying foreign taxes only.

Finally, plan for healthcare. Many retirees look for a location that has access to quality and affordable healthcare. Locations far out from medical services can be a hassle for retirees, who are more likely to need routine care. Talk more about your plans to live abroad with an estate planning attorney so that you are prepared to go when it’s time. To get started fleshing out your overseas retirement dreams, contact us at 732-521-9455 or email us at info@lawesq.net

For the Furry Ones in Your Life: Estate Planning With Pets in Mind

Although many people have heard about the traditional aspects of estate planning, like a will, it’s all too often forgotten that you may have others you need to include in your plans. The majority of houses across the country have pets inside, and it’s worth considering what you’d like to happen to your animals if something happens to you. Pets are treated as personal property, so it’s crucial that you do a little research about where you’d like them to go.

For the Furry Ones in Your Life Estate Planning With Pets in Mind
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A pet trust, for example, can outline the type of care your animals will receive after you pass away. With a funded pet trust, you can rest assured that your animals will be taken care of no matter what. This trend is expanding in use across the estate planning industry. A first step in your pet plan is to write a description of all animals, including any distinguishing characteristics. This helps to avoid copycat pets or mistakes receiving care that you intended for your own animals. Microchip numbers, too, should be included for identity verification.

You can work with an estate planning professional to determine the cost of care for your animal. Factor in vet care, routine medications, any special supplements, pet insurance, and food, multiplied by the life expectancy of your pet. Talking this over with any family members can be helpful for establishing those who may want to care for your animals, too. Have questions about pet trusts or other planning tools? Send us an email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Estate Planning and Reproductive Technology

Unfortunately, estate planning law hasn’t really stayed on pace with reproductive technology and rights, generating quandaries about inheritance rights. It would make sense that children conceived after the death of an individual (or statements denying inheritance rights about these individuals) should be included in estate planning documents.

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A trust might be a more appropriate vehicle for managing inheritance rights in this way when compared with a will. A comprehensive estate plan, too, can also be valuable with regard to genetic material. Much the law with regard to inheritance rights and genetic material is very specific to each state, which is why it’s recommended to work with a professional if you’re concerned about children conceived posthumously. In many states, the law has not provided a framework for the disposition of embryos or gametes at the death of the donor.

While not every estate plan will include such instructions and details, it’s critical that those in this situation think about whether those individuals conceived later will have any inheritance rights. Planning in advance for this and documenting your wishes is a vital step in ensuring that your wishes are carried out after you have passed away. Advance planning can be complex, but the process is made easier when working with an experienced estate planning lawyer. To learn more about complex estate planning needs involving reproductive issues, contact us at 732-521-9455 or email us at info@lawesq.net