5 Essential Tips for Hiring an Elder Law Attorney

A guide to choosing a NJ estate planning lawyer

You may think that estate planning is something you don’t need to worry about until you’re older. However, life is unpredictable and we never know what will happen from day to day. We recommend adults of all ages have a valid Last Will and Testament drawn up with the help of an elder law attorney. Having a will protects you, your family, and your assets in the event that something happens to you. It also provides your loved ones with guidance and eases financial stresses during a difficult time. 

In this article, our team at SCC Legal shares five essential tips for choosing the best elder law attorney for your unique situation. We hope this guide proves helpful, and encourage you to contact us with any additional questions. 

NJ estate planning: choosing the right elder law attorney

  1. Schedule several initial consultations with different lawyers. This gives you the chance to ask any questions, understand more about the estate planning process, and allows you to get a sense of each attorney’s personality and working style. 
  2. Ensure they have a lot of experience with cases similar to yours. Ideally, the attorney you choose will specialize in estate planning and they’ll be an expert in NJ estate planning laws and regulations. 
  3. Decide how you feel about their professionalism and responsiveness. You don’t want to work with someone who takes days to reply to your messages, who doesn’t explain things clearly, or who doesn’t return your calls. 
  4. Check their client reviews. Most attorneys will happily provide you with reviews from previous clients, or you can find their client reviews online. 
  5. Be sure they have the necessary credentials. It may seem obvious, but the attorney you choose needs to be licensed by the New Jersey State Bar Association. Additionally, you should check that they don’t have a record of any disciplinary actions taken against them. 

It’s never too early to create a Last Will and Testament. The last few years have demonstrated the unpredictability of life, and being prepared is necessary in order to protect yourself and your family. If you have questions about estate planning or changing your will, or if you’d like to speak to one of our elder law attorneys, please contact our team at SCC Legal today.

New Year’s Resolution #1: Make a Rock Solid Will and Power of Attorney

New Year's Resolution #1 Make a Rock Solid Will and Power of Attorney

As we celebrate the new year and think about what we want to accomplish, now is the perfect time to create a will and ensure that your estate plan is in order. Planning your Will and Power of Attorney is one of those things that’s easy to put off, and you may be telling yourself that you’ll get around to it soon, but make 2022 the year that you actually do it. 

We never know what will happen in life, so having a will serves as important protection for both you and your family, as well as your business and assets. Our team at SCC Legal will be happy to answer any questions you have along the way. 

How do I create a will in NJ?

The first step is to contact a trusted estate planning attorney. They will be able to explain the process, assist you with all of the paperwork, and ensure your Will and Power of Attorney documents are legal and valid. Here are the steps you can expect to take while creating your will: 

  • Decide which of your properties you want to include in your will. This includes your home, your business, and any additional residential or commercial properties you own. 
  • Who will inherit your properties? Whether it’s your children, siblings, close friends, or someone else, you must name someone as the inheritor.
  • Nominate an executor for your estate. The executor of a will is the person who ensures the instructions are carried out as you wish.
  • Select a guardian for your children. We encourage parents of young children to create a will as soon as they’re born, because it ensures their kids will be taken care of if anything happens to them. 
  • Work with your estate planning attorney to create your will. Once all the above decisions have been made, your attorney will help you create the documents that make it official. 
  • Follow the steps to make your will valid and legal. This includes signing in front of two witnesses, and following any final steps as directed by your estate lawyer. 

If you have questions about creating a will in NJ, or if you’d like more information on estate planning, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. We look forward to hearing from you.

Can I change or revoke a power of attorney?

Can I change or revoke a power of attorney

Power of attorney (POA) is a legal document you create and sign that nominates another person, usually a family member or close friend, to make financial, medical, or legal decisions on your behalf in the event that you become unable to do so. For example, if you create a POA designating your sibling as the decision maker, and you suddenly become incapacitated due to an accident or an illness, your sibling will make decisions on your behalf until you recover. 

Our lives change all the time, which means our estate planning documents will also change. Perhaps, the person you nominated in your POA years ago is no longer the person you want to make decisions on your behalf… which leads to the question: Can I change or revoke a power of attorney?

The answer is yes, you can change or revoke a POA with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. We recommend reviewing your estate plan on a regular basis to ensure your wishes are still accurately reflected, including who you have nominated in your POA.

Transferring a power of attorney in NJ

The necessary steps to transfer a POA are as follows:

  • Write a statement revoking your existing POA. You need to provide legal documentation via your attorney, and it needs to be notarized. 
  • Tell the formerly-nominated person that you’re changing your POA. 
  • Give copies of the revocation to all relevant parties: your attorney, the formerly-nominated person, and any financial institutions who may have your POA on file. 
  • Work with your lawyer to prepare a new POA. 

Do I need to hire a lawyer in order to change or cancel a power of attorney?

Yes, we recommend hiring an experienced estate planning attorney if you want to change or cancel your POA. There are strict legal guidelines and processes that must be followed, and if they aren’t, your POA may be rendered invalid and your true wishes will not be carried out. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to work with an estate planning lawyer who can ensure your former POA is revoked, and your new POA is legally valid. 

For more information about estate planning, or if you have any questions about changing or canceling power of attorney in New Jersey, please contact our team at SCC Legal today.

What to look for in an estate planning attorney

What to look for in an estate planning attorney

Whether you’re just beginning your estate planning journey or you’ve already got all of your documents together, it’s essential to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Some people wrongly think that estate planning is something you wait until later in life to do, but we recommend people of all ages have an estate plan in place, because you never know what can happen. Having your Last Will and Trust protects both you and your loved ones in the event that something happens to you. 

So, what should you look for in an estate planning attorney? The lawyer you choose should be someone who specializes in estate planning and family law. Ideally they’ll have years of experience handling peoples’ estates along with a diverse range of family law cases. Ask friends and family members who have their estate plans in place who they used, because as the saying goes, word of mouth is usually the best way to get a recommendation!

Factors to consider when choosing an estate planning attorney

  • Geography. While in-person meetings are usually ideal, don’t limit your search to only your local area. Many estate planning lawyers offer virtual consultations via Skype or Zoom, which is often more convenient for both parties. If you find an attorney who you feel is right for you, but they’re located several hours away, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
  • Be prepared with a list of questions, and ensure you’re comfortable with the answers you receive. Every estate planning situation is unique, especially if you have a blended family, numerous assets, considerable wealth, or all of the above. Go into your consultation with a list of questions for your potential lawyer.
  • Expertise. You want an attorney whose expertise is in family law and estate planning. Not someone who occasionally takes on an estate planning client, while focusing on other areas of law. Make sure to research their credentials  and ask them about their experience in estate planning before coming to a final decision.
  • Check their accreditations and memberships. You may want to hire someone who is a member of relevant legal organizations and clubs. This usually means they keep themselves up to date on the latest aspects of the law.

For more information about estate planning, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

What are the legal grounds for contesting a will?

What are the legal grounds for contesting a will

If someone you love has passed away and you believe their will has been illegally influenced, or that fraud has taken place, you may have legal grounds to contest. Contesting a will is not necessarily an easy procedure, but with an experienced estate attorney on your side you can seek to make things right. 

You can contest a will under the following legal grounds:

  • The will was procured by fraud. Unfortunately this isn’t something that just happens in the movies. Sometimes people try to take advantage of older adults who may have diminished mental capacity by tricking them into signing a will that they did not agree to. For example, if your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia and months later they make a major change to their will, it may raise your suspicions about who was really behind that decision.
  • The will was not signed in accordance with state laws. New Jersey has specific laws about how a last will and testament is created and made legal. Certain witnesses must be present and specific procedures must be followed. If they weren’t, then the will can be declared invalid. 
  • The person was under duress and pressured to sign their will. Bullying, coercion, and pressuring people to sign their will is not okay, and a will signed under duress can be rendered invalid.
  • The person did not possess the mental faculties to understand the contents of their will. Memory issues are common in aging adults, and they may sign their will while not fully understanding its contents. 

When and how to contest a will

If you have any legitimate suspicions, please contact a NJ estate planning attorney as soon as possible. They’ll work with you to gather the necessary evidence and additional documentation to prove your claim and ensure your loved one’s will is carried out appropriately. Don’t wait for a “gotcha” moment or for an admission of guilt from the person you suspect – call an attorney today. 

Estate litigation in New Jersey: SCC Legal is here to assist

Contesting a will isn’t always a straightforward process, but at SCC Legal we have the experience necessary to help you find out the truth. Your loved one deserves to have their will carried out in exactly the way they intended. 

For more information about contesting a will, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today.

What does a real estate lawyer do?

What does a real estate lawyer do

Buying a home or a piece of property may seem like a straightforward transaction, but there are actually many legal factors that need to be carefully considered. You may think that real estate lawyers only deal with large, complicated purchases, but the reality is that everyday homeowners often enlist the help of real estate attorneys to protect their investment and their interests during the sale.

Real estate lawyers handle a variety of tasks, including:

  • Preparing, reviewing, and interpreting all contracts involved in buying or selling a home. Anyone who has ever tried to read a legal contract knows how complicated they can be, so you need a lawyer on your side who can interpret the legalese and ensure you’re aware of what terms you’re agreeing to. 
  • Handling the closing. If you’re buying or selling a home, your real estate attorney can act on your behalf during the closing. Especially, if the closing is done virtually instead of in-person with both parties. 
  • Helping you review your mortgage documents. The paperwork and processes involved with buying a property can be confusing, and you don’t have to go through it alone.  
  • Representing your interests during all stages of the process, including during inspections and due diligence. 
  • Representing you during any contract disputes. Disagreements inevitably arise during real estate transactions, and if this happens to you then you’ll need an experienced lawyer to have your best interests in mind. 

Real estate attorneys in NJ you can trust 

Buying a home is a huge decision, and for many of us it’s the largest purchase we’ll ever make in our lifetime. Whether you’re buying your first house or you’re experienced in the process, we recommend working with a real estate lawyer who can help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, and who will protect your finances during the transaction. 

When large sums of money are involved the risks are bigger. Speak to an experienced attorney who can help you avoid common mistakes and give you advice on what red flags to look out for. 

For more information about working with a real estate attorney, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why so many people choose us as their trusted real estate lawyers in New Jersey.

Requirements for a valid will in New Jersey 

Estate planning attorney New Jersey

Creating a valid will is an important part of the estate planning process. Our NJ estate planning attorneys have dealt with many cases where someone thought their will was valid, but unfortunately, due to certain laws and technicalities, their will is considered invalid. This is especially frustrating for the family of the deceased because their loved one is no longer around to help clear up any confusion and fix the problem. 

Continue reading “Requirements for a valid will in New Jersey “

Guardianship abuse: what it entails and how to avoid it

Guardianship abuse is a type of elder abuse that occurs when a person who has been appointed as a guardian abuses their power. Unfortunately, guardianship abuse is much more common than you might think.

However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your assets. Guardianship is an essential part of a comprehensive estate plan, and if you haven’t spoken with an elder lawyer yet, we recommend you do so soon.

Continue reading “Guardianship abuse: what it entails and how to avoid it”

4 common causes for estate litigation

Advice from NJ estate litigation lawyers

When someone passes away, their estate will be distributed as requested in their Last Will and Testament. Unfortunately, estate disputes are common, and grieving family members are left arguing and fighting with one another over money, assets, and more. We’ve all seen this cliché play out in movies, but when it happens in real life, it’s painful and adds stress to everyone involved. 

With that said, our team of NJ estate litigation lawyers have put together a list of four common causes for estate disputes. If you’re in need of legal guidance and representation during an estate distribution, we’re happy to discuss your options. 

Here are some common causes of estate litigation 

  • Disagreements over beneficiary designations. If someone has been designated as a beneficiary of a particular asset or a certain sum of money, it will be transferred to them upon the person’s passing. But sometimes, beneficiaries are disputed if the other parties involved believe there has been misconduct. If there were significant changes made to the decedent’s will near the end of their life, their state of mind may also be called into question. 
  • Disagreements over unequal distribution of property. The decedent’s home and any other real estate they own will be listed in their will, alongside a beneficiary. However, disagreements often arise when other parties involved learn that the decedent gave away one of their properties while still alive, or if the decedent’s competency is called into question in any way.
  • Compensation for services. Estate trustees are entitled to compensation for their work, but if they fail to execute the trust as directed or if the family have any doubts, they can call the compensation into question. This can be a tricky issue to navigate and we recommend seeking guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney on how to proceed.
  • Disagreements over executor duties. The executor is the person who oversees the administration of the decedent’s estate, who is chosen by the decedent. Disputes between an executor and the decedent’s family are quite common. Some of these issues include the executor taking too long to distribute the estate, exhibiting unsound judgment, not distributing the estate as the decedent intended or selling assets for less than market value without permission from the beneficiaries.

For more information about your rights during an estate litigation, or if you have any legal questions regarding a Last Will and Testament, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why we’ve become trusted estate litigation lawyers for so many residents in New Jersey.

Asset protection trusts : what you need to know 

Asset protection trust

An asset protection trust , also called an APT, is a special type of trust that people use when planning their estate. APTs protect an individual’s estate and assets from creditors, lawsuits, and other judgments made against their estate and this is done by severing all connections between you and your assets. When you create an APT, you legally transfer the ownership of your estate and your assets to a separate trust that is wholly controlled by a designated Trustee. In short, you’re no longer the legal owner of your own estate. 

Continue reading “Asset protection trusts : what you need to know “

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