Reasons to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning attorney

Estate planning is not something to take lightly. Many of us have it on our list of things we’ll eventually get around to, but we recommend speaking with an estate planning attorney soon and ensuring everything is in place. This is especially important for people with a lot of assets, own multiple businesses, and have large or blended families. A good estate planning attorney will help you put a plan in place that gives your loved ones clarity and peace of mind when you’re no longer here. 

Here’s why you need an estate planning attorney:

  • New Jersey laws will impact the way you plan your estate. Some state laws dictate who can be named executor, who can be given power of attorney, who can make medical decisions, and other important factors. A New Jersey elder law attorney will be able to explain all the laws that have an impact on your living will.
  • Hiring an attorney ensures your will is legally valid. While it may be tempting to fill out one of those quick, do-it-yourself internet forms, we strongly advise against this. You need a certified legal professional to ensure all of your estate planning documents cannot be contested.
  • Estate planning attorneys can easily organize complex business and family situations. Multiple marriages and blended families are the norm these days, and so is owning one or several businesses. These factors can sometimes make estate planning tricky however, so it’s best to consult an attorney who is experienced in dealing with all different types of life situations. 

NJ estate planning you can trust 

Instead of putting it off another year, why not contact a NJ estate planning attorney today and start organizing your estate? Being legally prepared for the end of your life makes things a little bit easier for your loved ones, and it mitigates family disputes that can easily turn ugly. Having a clear estate plan in place gives your loved ones the clarity they need to carry out your wishes, the way you intend them to. 

This past year has taught us that we must be prepared for the unexpected. If something happens to you and your family has no clear will in place, they’ll be left to figure it out on their own without knowing what you really wanted. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you plan your estate, or if you have any other questions, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning partners. 

What are Your Sibling Rights in a Contested Will Probate?

Estate planning attorney

Although it’s an unfortunate reality, estate planning attorneys will attest to the fact that it’s common for siblings to fight over their parent’s will. When the last remaining parent passes away, it’s understandably a very sad and distressing time, and when a parent’s will becomes contested among siblings, it only adds to the stress and emotional strain. 

In our many years of representing siblings in estate disputes, we’ve found the following issues to be some of the most common:

  • One sibling seeks to direct a disproportionate amount of decedent assets to themselves. Hopefully your late parent left behind a will, which will instruct their attorney on how to distribute their assets. If they passed away without a will, all siblings must reach an agreement regarding asset distribution. 
  • Some siblings live far away, and find themselves unable to get straight information on the disposition of the estate. All siblings are entitled to complete transparency regarding their late parent’s estate, so if you find yourself unable to get information, contact an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. 
  • Siblings find that one of them has coerced the signing of legal documents by the decedent prior to their death. If there’s a question about the will’s validity, it deserves to be investigated before a final decision about the estate is made. If you suspect your late parent was coerced, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation.
  • Siblings find that one of them has secretly transferred assets into their name prior to a parents death. While this may sound like something from a movie, it unfortunately happens more frequently than you might think. Especially when one sibling still lives close to the parent and the other siblings live far away. If this has happened then the will might be invalid, so please seek advice from an attorney. 
  • A sibling acting as executor is taking unreasonable amounts of expenses for said activity. If your parent’s will was clear and uncontested, there’s no reason that executing their estate should become a cumbersome, expensive activity.

Advice from a New Jersey elder law attorney 

We understand that losing your last remaining parent is a very difficult time. When their will is contested among your siblings, you need advice from an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you and support you through this emotional experience. You also deserve to understand your rights and ensure your late parent’s will is executed in the exact way they wished it to be. 

For more information about how our elder law attorneys can help, 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.

What are the Advantages of Having a Comprehensive Estate Plan in NJ?

Estate planning attorney New Jersey

Estate planning is something many people put off until later in life, either because they think they don’t need it yet or because they aren’t sure what the process involves. It’s never too early to put together your comprehensive estate plan – it’s something that protects both you and your family in the event that something happens to you. With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, it can be a straightforward process. 

The advantages of having a comprehensive estate plan include:

  • Gives you a clear understanding of the value of your estate. Do you really know how much your estate is worth? This includes things like property, stock options, various bank accounts, and other assets. Your estate isn’t just the dollar amount of your checking account, there’s usually much more involved. In order to plan what will happen to your assets once you’re gone, you need a comprehensive overview of everything first.
  • Ensures your children will be taken care of. Part of your estate plan includes choosing who will take care of your children after you’re gone, and this is especially important if you have children under the age of 18. 
  • Helps you transfer money and other assets in the most tax-efficient ways. You may have heard of the transfer tax, and if you have a substantial amount of wealth, your assets may be taxed after you’re gone before they’re given to the people listed in your will. 
  • Eases the distress for your family. Coping with the loss of a loved one is a stressful time as it is. And when you pass away with no estate plan in place,  this can heighten the distress of your family. Without an estate plan, your family becomes responsible for deciding what to do with your assets, and disagreements often arise. 

Get help with your NJ estate plan today 

Estate plans consist of several documents including Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, and more. All of these documents are used in different circumstances. For example, if you’re no longer able to make medical or financial decisions for yourself and you don’t have these documents in place, then the court may be appointed to make decisions for you, instead of your family or loved ones. 

To learn how SCC Legal can help you create or update your estate plan, or if you have any other questions about estate planning, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning attorneys.

The Challenges of Applying for Medicaid

Medicaid planning

Millions of people use Medicaid to pay for costs related to assisted living, in-home care, and other associated medical costs. While you may not associate Medicaid planning with estate planning, we recommend preparing your Medicaid application the same as you would prepare traditional estate planning documents. Anyone who has been through the Medicaid application process will tell you that it’s arduous, complicated, lengthy, and any errors may cause your application to be rejected. It’s best to work with an experienced legal team who can help you navigate the application process.

What are the top reasons Medicaid applications are rejected?

  • Your application is incomplete and doesn’t contain all the required documents. Unfortunately, incomplete applications are often rejected immediately, meaning you’ve lost valuable time and you’ll have to start over with a new application.
  • Failing to reply to questions about your application. Once your local Medicaid office receives your application, they will contact you if they need further clarification. You only have 10 days to reply to their queries, and if they don’t receive a response from you, you may have to start again from the beginning. 
  • Your income is too high. Every state has different income thresholds that will disqualify you from Medicaid, and we recommend working with an elder law attorney who knows the New Jersey Medicaid Eligibility requirements to increase the chance that your application is accepted.
  • Filing too early or too late. There is a window of time in which you’re eligible to apply for Medicaid, and if your application is submitted too early or too late it will probably be rejected.

Why SCC Legal Recommends Medicaid Application Help 

Working with an experienced Medicaid attorney will save you time, frustration, and money, and can increase the chances that your application is successful. Having a Medicaid application denied can cause emotional and financial stress and you don’t want to go through the application process multiple times.

For more information about Medicaid application assistance, or if you have any questions for us at SCC Legal, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted elder law attorneys and estate planning specialists. 

Conservatorships vs. Powers of Attorney: Which Is Right for You?

There are many decisions to make when planning your estate. One common question people have is about Conservatorships vs. Powers of Attorney, and which one is best for their particular situation. While estate planning attorneys can give their professional advice, it’s important to understand the difference between the two options before deciding.

Conservatorships

A Conservatorship is a legal relationship that a judge puts in place when an individual is deemed mentally, physically, or emotionally unable to care for themselves. If you become incapacitated in an accident or fall seriously ill, and aren’t able to care for yourself and make important decisions about your own life, a judge will appoint a conservator who can make these decisions for you.

A Conservatorship isn’t something you can put in place ahead of time. In order to become the conservator of someone else, you must file a petition with the court and the court must decide that the individual in question is unable to care for themselves. The court also decides what types of decisions the conservator is allowed to make on the person’s behalf: medical, financial, and legal, to name a few. Conservatorships have no time limits and if the incapacitated person recovers, the court must decide that they are now able to care for themselves going forward.

Powers of Attorney

Power of Attorney is a legal document you put in place ahead of time as part of a comprehensive estate plan. In this document you nominate other people to make decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated, and these can include financial decisions, medical decisions, legal decisions, and more. You can choose which decisions your nominated individuals can make on your behalf, and you can enforce time limits and stipulate specific circumstances. 

Unlike a Conservatorship, Powers of Attorney do not require going to court and getting a judge’s approval, rather they are created and verified as part of your estate planning process. 

Estate planning for digital assets 

One relatively new aspect of estate planning is digital assets. Things like email accounts, social media pages, blogs, websites, and media stored in the Cloud all qualify as digital assets, and you’ll need to decide who gets which assets after you pass away. Many of us now use Cloud services to store our family photos and videos instead of traditional photo albums and physical videos, so your family will want to be able to access these cherished memories. 

If you have any questions about estate planning or would like to learn more, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

Estate planning for single parents requires special considerations

Elderly woman touching face of young female nurse

For single parents, estate planning is one of the most important things you can do for your children. Creating a comprehensive estate plan ensures your children will be taken care of when you aren’t there to care for them anymore, and it gives you peace of mind. No one likes to think about what will happen if tragedy should strike, or if you’re diagnosed with an illness, and we all have a tendency to delay taking care of important matters like estate planning. We recommend planning your estate now, and for single parents there are certain questions to keep in mind:

  • If something happens to you, who will raise your children until they become adults? Some people nominate their children’s other parent, some people choose their brother or sister, and some people nominate close family friends. Whoever you choose to be their guardian will be responsible for their care until they are legal adults, so it’s definitely not a decision to make lightly.
  • Will your life insurance provide for your children if something happens to you? Being able to provide financially for your children is often a parent’s single biggest concern. Life insurance is an affordable way to ensure your kids are taken care of after your passing, but it’s important to note that children cannot receive money from a life insurance policy. Talk to an estate planning attorney about setting up a trust to provide for your children’s living expenses.
  • What happens if you remarry and become a blended family? Although blended families are very common, remarrying means you’ll need to make some important decisions about who will care for your kids if something happens to you, asset allocation, and more. An estate planning attorney will be able to give you objective advice, and will help you create the best plan for your family.

Don’t delay your estate planning

We understand that single parents have extra responsibilities, extra worries, and extra considerations to think about regarding their children’s futures. An estate planning attorney can help you create a plan that ensures your children will be safe, well-taken care of, and provided for financially once you’re gone. Think of your estate plan as your life jacket – you’d never get on a boat without one, so why would you go through life without an estate plan?

For more information about estate planning, including Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney, or if you have any questions, please contact SCC Legal today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey have chosen us as their trusted estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

Understanding Durable Power of Attorney

It’s never too early to start the estate planning process. While it can be easy to put it off, or to say you’ll get around to it next year, it’s crucial to have a plan in place that will protect and provide for your loved ones if something happens to you. Additionally, many people believe they don’t need to start thinking about estate planning until later in life, or until they experience an injury or an illness, but making all the necessary arrangements now will make things easier for you and your family.  

One document often used in estate planning is Durable Power of Attorney. This is an important document to understand and to have in place, so what is Durable Power of Attorney and how is it used? To start, Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf to make legal, financial, or medical decisions. But Power of Attorney is not valid once you become incapacitated, and this is where Durable Power of Attorney becomes important.

Durable Power of Attorney gives someone – a person chosen by you – the authority to make decisions about your medical care and your finances if you become incapacitated, either by injury or illness. With Durable Power of Attorney legally in place, the person you’ve selected to act on your behalf will be able to do essential things like:

  • Pay your bills and deposit checks on your behalf
  • Make medical decisions on your behalf, including decisions about your treatment
  • Manage your bank accounts, assets and investments

Why Durable Power of Attorney is essential 

Durable Power of Attorney is often separated into two categories – finances and healthcare – and you will need to nominate a person to act on your behalf in each area. It can be the same person, or you may have family members who are specialists in these categories who you would trust to make decisions for you if you become unable.  

If you become incapacitated and haven’t chosen a durable power of attorney, decisions about your medical care may be made by doctors and your family will not have a say. Families that find themselves in this situation often go to court in order to be allowed to make decisions about their loved one’s care, causing them additional distress during an already difficult time. The same is true for your financial decisions – families are left having to petition the court to gain access to their loved one’s finances. 

For more information about estate planning, including Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

When is the Right Time to Start Planning for Long-Term Care?

long-term care

Do you have plans in place for your long-term care? Long-term care includes things like Medicaid planning, assisted living, home care nurses, any specialized medical care, and more. It’s not something many of us think about before we need it, but planning ahead of time and developing a retirement strategy can make any future life transitions as smooth as possible for both you and your family.

So, when should you start planning? The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers some helpful advice, and in addition, here are a few scenarios that indicate you should contact an elder law attorney:

  • When you have children. Even though you aren’t a senior citizen when your children are first born, it’s still recommended to solidify your long-term care plans, because your children are your dependants and your plans directly affect them, as well as involve them. As your children get older you may often make changes to your long-term care plans, but we recommend putting them in place as soon as you can to prepare for the future.
  • When you’re diagnosed with an illness or a condition. Receiving a diagnosis often serves as a wake-up call for people because there’s so much to think about – your assets, the care you might need in the future, any medical decisions your spouse or your children may need to make on your behalf, and the finances regarding any care you might need. 
  • If you’ve recently been injured. Injuries can range from slip and fall incidents to car accidents to sports injuries, and in order to protect your family and your finances, it’s wise to have a plan in place in the unfortunate event that you suffer a serious injury. 
  • When you turn 50. Experts recommend starting your long-term care planning between the ages of 40 – 50, so if you reach this important milestone and don’t have your legal affairs in order, contact an elder law attorney to find out what you need to do.

Start planning for your future today

Planning for your long-term care requires you to understand your current financial situation, your projected future financial situation, and all the costs associated with long-term care. Being financially prepared for your future is critical, and many people work with an attorney to put a plan in place for their retirement. Attorneys who specialize in long-term care planning can help you develop a comprehensive retirement strategy and a financial plan to secure your future.

For more information about planning for long-term care, including Medicaid assistance and Medicaid planning, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their elder law attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

5 Important Reasons to Avoid a Do-It-Yourself Will

will

When it comes to your will, advice from an estate planning attorney ensures your wishes are carried out exactly as you desire, leaving no room for confusion or misinterpretation. We’ve seen the rise of do-it-yourself wills over the last few years, but it’s important to understand what can go wrong with this method:

1. A will must be signed and witnessed following proper protocol in order to be valid in a court of law. Simply typing your last wishes up on a piece of paper while you’re home alone and signing it will not hold up with a judge, and its validity can be contested.

2. Making changes to your will must follow proper protocol, or else they may be considered invalid. It’s common to make changes to your will, but you can’t just re-draft your will on your own. Enlisting the help of an estate planning attorney to make amends to your will ensures these changes are honored when the time comes.

3. You must follow proper protocol when having your will witnessed. This includes having two independent adults present at the same time, neither one of whom can be listed as the beneficiary of your will. When done under the guidance of an estate planning attorney there is little room for doubt as to whether proper procedure was followed. 

4. Misspelled names might render your will invalid. Our eyes tend to gloss over spelling errors quite easily, especially if it’s a name that you see often. Having a professional set of eyes read your will can catch costly spelling errors and other mistakes. 

5. Your will affects the family members you leave behind. An incorrectly executed will can eliminate your family’s income source, cause them to lose their home, and leave behind a frustrating, confusing mess. 

Our affairs are rarely as straightforward as we think they are. The DIY route may seem tempting due to the convenience, but it’s recommended to invest a little more time and money by enlisting the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. They can prepare you for circumstances you probably have not thought of, and ensure your will truly fulfills your last wishes.

Advice from New Jersey estate planning attorneys

If you have questions about estate planning, or you’re ready to draw up your will, please contact us today. Discover why we’re New Jersey’s most trusted estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

5 Important Documents to Have in Place for Estate Planning during COVID-19

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If you’re searching for a dependable estate planning attorney in New Jersey, we are here to help. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the lives of people across our country, we want to ensure you are prepared if you or someone in your family contracts the virus. Don’t leave your family open to medical and financial risks – get these five estate planning documents in place today:

  1. Guardianship: If you have children under the age of 18, you want to know they will be taken care of if you become ill and need to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. A Guardianship appoints someone to take care of your children if you become unable to care for them, often a relative or a close family friend, and you can rest assured that your children will be in capable hands if something should happen to you.
  2. Healthcare Power of Attorney: If you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself, you don’t want decisions to be made by the courts. This document appoints someone in your family to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  3. Living Will: In this document you can specify the types of medical care you do or do not want in certain situations, so you don’t leave your family guessing if tragedy should strike. You don’t want your family feeling confused and uncertain if something happens to you and they are required to make decisions on your behalf.
  4. Revocable Living Trust: This document is crucial, because it allows you to allocate your assets, including money and property, in the event you should pass away. Family feuds over assets are unfortunately very common, but you can avoid this and remove any doubt by creating a Revocable Living Trust.
  5. Durable Financial Power of Attorney: If the unthinkable happens, would your family face financial strain? This document appoints a trusted person to pay bills, make deposits, and other important transactions on your behalf.

Contact our New Jersey estate planning attorneys 

When it comes to estate planning it’s always best to be prepared. These documents are a crucial part of your family life and you deserve to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if tragedy strikes, your affairs are in place. It’s simply too risky to wait until it’s too late.

We are standing by and ready to help. Contact us today for assistance with Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Trusts, and more. Discover why we’re trusted estate planning attorneys in New Jersey. We look forward to hearing from you.

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