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Proper estate planning is the best way to ensure your health care and asset distribution preferences are clear both before and after your passing. Discussions about these subjects can be difficult, but it's important to plan ahead to protect yourself and your loved ones. Our estate planning lawyers at Giro & Associates, LLC help individuals and couples create personalized estate plans designed to safeguard your assets and maximize your beneficiaries' inheritance.
It's common for couples to erroneously believe that all their assets will automatically go to their spouse if one of them passes away. This is not always true – each state has its own laws of intestate succession. This means that if you die without a will, the probate court determines how your assets will be distributed according to the law, even if you're married. This type of situation can get very messy and lead to family conflict, especially if children from a previous relationship are involved.
If you have minor children, it's also vital to name guardians for them in your will. If both parents die at the same time, the last thing you want is the court making decisions that could result in your children being cared for by strangers.
In addition, if you become incapacitated your spouse doesn't automatically have the right to make medical decisions on your behalf. In most cases, they must be named as an agent in a power of attorney for health care. There are many different factors to consider when creating an estate plan with your spouse. Our Hackensack estate planning attorneys help you make sense of it at all and advise you of your options.
Regardless of marital status, everyone should have a will. Talking to your spouse about a will is one of the first and most crucial steps in estate planning for couples.
Mirror wills are separate but practically identical. Typically, they leave all assets to the other spouse. A less popular option is a joint will, which is a single, shared last will and testament for both spouses. To modify a joint will, both partners much approve any changes, which makes it less flexible than each spouse drafting their own will.
Some important things you should specify in your will include:
It's also important to understand your state's community property laws when it comes to joint assets. Sitting down with your spouse and collaborating on your wills can actually bring you closer and help avoid any confusion down the road. Our wills and trusts lawyers are well-versed in these matters and ensure the language in your will meets all legal requirements and reflects each person's wishes.
Depending on the circumstances, a trust (or trusts) can simplify your estate plan, especially if you have a blended family. Revocable and irrevocable trusts each provide their own benefits and drawbacks, and can be set up either jointly or separately. Assets in a revocable trust do not have to pass through probate, which can lessen the burden on the loved ones you leave behind. Assets in a living trust are not are included in the public record, which allows details about your family's finances to remain confidential. You can also include provisions that preserve your assets solely for the use and benefit of your children and grandchildren, which may protect them from creditors or a divorced spouse.
Our knowledgeable estate planning lawyers evaluate your financial and family circumstances, explain different trust options, and advise you of which types trusts may fit your needs and offer the most benefit to you and your family.
Losing the ability to make choices for yourself due to an injury or illness is devastating. Your spouse may have your back, but isn't automatically legally entitled to make important medical decisions for you. A medical power of attorney or health care proxy enables you to name your spouse or another adult as an agent who can make these choices on your behalf. You can also indicate which types of medical care you do and do not want.
A medial proxy is usually combined with an advance directive or living will, which specifies whether you wish to have life-sustaining measures such as CPR, a ventilator, artificial nutrition or hydration, and end-of-life comfort care, such as pain medications. Although these subjects are often hard to talk about, making your wishes clear can make it less traumatic for your spouse and other loved ones if something happens to you. If you believe your spouse will have a hard time carrying out your wishes for medical care, you can name someone else as your health care proxy. Just make sure to discuss it with your partner beforehand.
Making a thoughtful long-term care plan for yourself and your spouse isn't just about finances. It helps ease the stress and emotional strain of wondering what will happen should one or both of you need care. A solid plan can also help your spouse or children avoid scrambling at the last minute to find financial resources. Depending on your family situation and financial circumstances, Medicaid planning may be an effective approach, or you may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance policies.
If you're a veteran, you may not even be aware that you and your spouse could be eligible for programs such as a Veteran's Aid and Attendance pension. This plan provides health care, medications, and services like bathing, dressing, feeding, and other daily activities. As someone who has honorably served your country, you deserve to take advantage of all the benefits that may be available to you.
Our New Jersey elder law attorneys understand the often confusing and frustrating processes required to obtain long-term care benefits. We find creative solutions to protect and preserve your assets while helping you get the care you need and peace of mind you deserve.
Whether you're married, single, or in a domestic partnership, our experienced team of wills and trust lawyers and family law attorneys provide top-notch legal representation you can count on. Giro & Associates, LLC is proud to serve clients in Hackensack, NJ and surrounding areas. To schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer, please contact us today.
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