Who Needs A Will?
Every person, eighteen (18) years of age or older should make a Will. A Will ensures that your personal belongings and assets are distributed to the family members or beneficiaries you designate. Without a Will, the court makes these decisions for you.
Why is a Will important?
A Will is an important document because it is a legal declaration of the way you want your property distributed. Individuals without wills may leave their heirs with heavy burdens and financial insecurity. The making a Will is an important step to insuring that not only your wishes for your loved ones are fulfilled but that your loved ones are properly protected. For example, if you die without a Will, your next of kin will have to appear in Court to pay the cost of a bond to insure your estate.
What are the benefits of a Will?
Your assets and your loved ones are protected under a Will. You decide to whom, when, and in what amounts your assets should be distributed. You choose your Executor or Personal Representative, the individual who will be responsible for the disposition of your estate. Your Executor takes action to protect the assets of the estate, makes distributions of property to beneficiaries and pays the debts and taxes of the estate.
Without a Will your estate will be distributed according to the intestate laws for the State of New Jersey, the provisions of which are general and inflexible. The law will dictate who will administer your estate, among whom, and how it shall be distributed. Without a Will you lose the privilege of naming a guardian for your minor children. This is vital, particularly if your spouse should not survive you. If you leave no immediate family, failure to leave a Will may result in your property going to persons in whom you have no particular interest.
Why Living Wills?
Modern advances in science and medicine have made possible the prolongation of the lives of many seriously ill individuals, without always offering realistic prospects for improvement or cure. For some individuals the possibility of extended life is experienced as meaningful and of benefit. For others, artificial prolongation of life may seem to provide nothing medically necessary or beneficial, serving only to extend suffering and prolong the dying process. States recognize the inherent dignity and value of human life and within this context recognize the fundamental right of individuals to make health care decisions to have life-prolonging medical or surgical means or procedures provided, withheld or withdrawn. States recognize the right of competent adults to plan ahead for health care decisions through the execution of advance directives, such as Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney.
What is the Purpose of a Living Will?
The purpose of a Living Will is to respect your wishes when the capacity to participate actively in decision making has been lost or impaired; to facilitate and encourage a sound decision making process in which you, your health care representatives, families, physicians, and other health care professionals are active participants; to properly consider your interests both in self-determination and in well-being; and to provide necessary and appropriate safeguards concerning the termination of life-sustaining treatment.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a written document in which a competent adult individual (the "principal") appoints another competent adult individual (the "attorney-in-fact") to act on the principal's behalf. In general, an attorney-in-fact may perform any legal function or task which the principal has a legal right to do for him/herself.
The term "durable" in reference to a Power of Attorney means that the power remains in force for the lifetime of the principal, even if he/she becomes mentally incapacitated. A principal may cancel a Power of Attorney at any time for any reason. Powers granted on a Power of Attorney document can be very broad or very narrow in accordance with the needs of the principal.
Why is a Power of Attorney so important?
Every adult has day-to-day affairs to manage, such as banking, paying the bills, etc. Many people are under the impression that, in the event of catastrophic illness or injury, a spouse or child can automatically act on their behalf. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
The lack of properly prepared and executed Power of Attorney can cause extreme difficulties when an individual is stricken with severe illness or injury rendering him/her unable to make decisions or manage financial and medical affairs. All states have legal procedures, guardianships or conservatorships, to provide for appointment of a Guardian. These normally require formal proceedings, are very expensive and require court appearances. These procedures also require the involvement of temporary guardians to investigate, even intercede, in surrogate proceedings. This can be slow, costly, and very frustrating.
Estate planning documents are important. If you are interested, please contact our office for a free consultation.