How divorce can affect your children’s inheritance

Divorce is a traumatic experience that can affect every aspect of your life – including how your children may inherit from their parents. You may want your children to inherit specific assets or portions of your assets, but certain situations can have a profound affect on this process. Find out what you should do to protect your assets with this advice from experienced estate planning attorneys in New Jersey.

Revoke your Last Will and Testament – Don’t revise it 

Many people create a Will when they get married and the document is generally centered around the two people in the relationship. Revising a Will in these cases can be tricky and complicated – and one mistake can make it invalid or deviate from your intentions. Revoking it and making an entirely new Last Will and Testament is simpler, easier and gives you the peace of mind that is it entirely focused on your current requirements and intentions.

Your Will should focus on who you would like to leave assets to, it should name a new executor and name guardians for your minor children – a very important element in cases where you feel the other spouse shouldn’t have custody/full custody.

Update all your beneficiaries 

Most married couples name each other and their children as the primary beneficiaries of their assets and, in the event of a divorce, this is often no longer the desired outcome. In addition to sentimental assets, be sure to update the beneficiaries of the following:

  • Life insurance policies.
  • Retirement annuities such as 401 (k)’s and pension accounts.
  • Payable-on-death and transfer-on-death bank accounts.

Updating these beneficiaries also allows you to change the amounts your children may inherit, ensuring the assets stay in their names.

Revoke your Power of Attorneys and start fresh 

Power of Attorneys give full decision-making power to the person of your choice regarding medical and financial issues in the event that you cannot do so yourself. If the person named is your former spouse, you would likely want this changed. As with a Will, it is easier to revoke these documents and start over with new Powers of Attorney.

Consider a Living Trust

A Living Trust bypasses the often lengthy and costly probate process, giving your named beneficiaries access to your assets immediately. These are highly customizable legal entities where you can state who will inherit what, what the money will go towards and how much access beneficiaries will have. This is very valuable if you would like certain funds to be used for college funds, how much you would like to go towards your children’s guardians and if you would like your children to inherit only at a certain age. This is also very useful if you own a business, as it allows the company to keep running and it’s income to stay accessible.

At Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, LLC, experienced estate planning attorneys can assist you with creating a Living Trust or drawing up other legal documents including Power of Attorney, medical directives and Wills. For more information or to speak to an attorney, please contact us today.

Your guide to probate in New Jersey

For many of us, the term ‘probate’ is one we first hear when a loved one has passed away. But what does it mean for you, your loved one’s estate and the inheritors of the estate? Our experienced New Jersey estate planning attorneys have put together this guide to assist you through the probate process.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process, supervised by the court, which is required after someone passes away only if there are assets held solely in that person’s name at their time of death. The first step of this process is to determine this and, if there are no assets held in this manner, a Last Will and Testament does not have to enter the rest of the probate process. Probate will allow an appointed person (usually a family member) to gather the deceased person’s assets, settle debts and outstanding taxes and transfer assets to the inheritors.

Probate and non-probate assets

Some assets are not required to enter the probate process, including:

  • 401(k) plans, payable-upon-death bank accounts and assets held in join ownership.
  • Assets held in a revocable living trust.
  • Life insurance and pension payouts that name someone other than the estate as beneficiary (e.g.: a spouse or dependent).

Assets that are subject to probate can include:

  • Inherited property that the deceased received in his/her name.
  • Life insurance and pension payouts that name the estate as the sole beneficiary.
  •  401(k) plans, payable-upon-death bank accounts and assets that name the estate as the sole beneficiary.

What is the probate process?

The probate process may vary according to specific, more complex cases but can generally be simplified into five steps:

  • Validating the Last Will and Testament.
  • Appointing an executor of the Will.
  • Taking inventory of the estate.
  • Paying the estate’s debts and taxes.
  • Distributing remaining assets to the named beneficiaries.

Does a Last Will and Testament affect the probate process?

Having a valid Last Will and Testament vastly simplifies the probate process and ensures that you or your loved one’s assets go to the people of your choice rather than being left to the State of New Jersey and your executor’s discretion.

In order to ensure your Will is valid and will accomplish your intentions, it’s important to have it drawn up by an experienced attorney. For more information, contact us today and speak to an attorney at Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, LLC. With over 30 years of experience in New Jersey estate planning law, we’ll deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your needs – whether your estate is big or small.

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