Simple and Complex Estate Planning Resources

What is a Will?
A will is a written document which, after your death, directs the distribution of your individually owned property; who will be in charge of the property until it is distributed; and who will take care of your minor children if their other parent should die. (The term property refers to real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and all other items of value, including personal possessions and the right to receive money.)

Do I need a Will? 
Yes. You don’t have to be wealthy or near death to do some serious thinking about a will. As a matter of fact, the less money you have, the more important each dollar becomes. Although any property that you own with someone else with the “right of survivorship” is not subject to the provisions of your will, almost everybody has some possessions that will be covered by a will if the co-owner should die before you or simultaneously with you.

Can I change my Will?
Certainly.  A will may be changed, added to, or modified at any time before your death, provided you are mentally competent and want to change it. You should think about revising your will any time your family or financial circumstances change.

How much does it cost to make a Will?
Probably less than you think. For many people, a “simple will” can be written by an attorney for a small cost. If your unique situation requires a more complicated legal document to carry out your wishes and provide for your survivors, your estate planning could be more advanced and costly.

Can a Will save money?
Yes, it can. Your estate will be subject to administration whether or not you leave a will, but in most cases a properly drawn will reduces state and federal death taxes and other expenses.

How do I make a Will?
A will must not only be prepared and executed to suit the legal technicalities of the law, but it also should be prepared so that it leaves no questions regarding your intention. Many times, even the most simple will drawn by a non-lawyer leaves some questions of interpretation that may have to be resolved through an expensive court proceeding.

What happens if I die without a Will?
If you die without a will your property will be distributed in accordance with New Jersey intestacy statutes, N.J.S.A. 3B:5-1 et seq. How your property is distributed varies according to who survives you and the relevant New Jersey intestacy statutes.

What is a Revocable Living Trust?
This trust is established for reasons other than the reduction of estate taxes. With a revocable living trust, ownership of assets is transferred to the trust while you are alive. You can keep any or all of the income, act as trustee, change the trust’s provisions or terminate the trust. A successor trustee can be named to take over if you become mentally or physically disabled. Assets in the trust are controlled by the trust agreement and are not subject to probate proceedings, which is considered one of its major advantages.

What is an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust?
This trust may keep the proceeds from a life insurance policy out of the insured’s estate for estate tax purposes. Often, the insurance policy is obtained to help pay estate taxes, with the policy held by the irrevocable trust. Annually, you can make gifts to the trust so the trustee can pay the policy premium. After your death, the trust receives the insurance proceeds, distributing them in accordance with the trust’s terms.

What is a Qualified Personal Residence Trust?

With this trust, you place your home or vacation home in an irrevocable trust, retaining the right to live in the home for a specified number of years. When the trust terminates, ownership passes to your beneficiaries. The gift tax value is determined on the date the house is placed in trust, by calculating the present value of the beneficiaries’ remainder interest in the home. If you die before the trust ends, the home is included in your estate at its fair market value.


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