Get Started with this Estate Planning Checklist

Get Started with this Estate Planning Checklist

Have you put together your estate plan yet? We often hear from people that they don’t think about estate planning until later in life when they’re nearing retirement age, but people of all ages need an estate plan. From unexpected accidents to illnesses, we can’t always plan for tomorrow. Having an estate plan in place protects the assets you have now, and provides your family with instructions for when you’re not here anymore. 

We’ve put together this estate planning checklist that covers all the essential documents you’ll need.

Living Will

A Living Will is a legal document in which a person specifies what medical decisions they want made for them in the event that they are no longer mentally able to make those decisions. For example, a Living Will might specify that a person would like to remain on life support if they become incapacitated. 

You can also nominate a person in your Living Will to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, if you become unable to do so. Examples include being in a coma, being incapacitated from an illness or an injury, or being on life support. Your estate planning attorney will guide you through all the potential medical scenarios, so you can decide exactly what you want to happen. 

Durable Power of Attorney

Durable Power of Attorney (PoA) gives someone else, referred to as your agent, the authority to act on your behalf. Spouses most often choose each other as their PoA, but it can also be a close friend or another family member. The person who has PoA is frequently responsible for making financial decisions on your behalf. 

List of Assets

This is exactly what it sounds like. In order to decide what will happen to your assets when you’re  no longer here, you’ll need to list them all and assign a numeric value to each one. Your assets include things like property, cars, bank accounts, businesses, jewelry, and other valuables. 


Your beneficiaries are the people to whom you will bequeath your assets after your death. Most people pass their assets down to their surviving spouse, children and grandchildren, but your beneficiaries can be anyone you know and love. 

Living Trust

This document allows you to transfer assets into a trust for your beneficiaries while you are still alive, meaning there’s no need for probate court proceedings. People who have large estates or complicated finances often create Living Trusts in order to start transferring possession of their assets before they pass away. 

For more information about the documents mentioned in our estate planning checklist, or if you’re ready to get started with your estate plan, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. When it comes to estate planning, it’s never too early to begin. Learn more by visiting us at:

Top Reasons Why People Eschew Estate Planning

Top Reasons Why People Eschew Estate Planning

Have you created your estate plan yet? Despite your age, your financial situation, or the value of your assets, it’s very important to have an estate plan in place for when you pass away. Understandably, this can be overwhelming to figure out on your own, but with the right help – you can have a successful estate plan for your family to follow. At SCC Legal, we’ve helped hundreds of people create a living will to make it easier on their families when the time comes – because that’s really what this is all about. In this article, we will outline the top reasons why people procrastinate on estate planning and why they shouldn’t for the sake of their loved ones. 

I Don’t Know Where to Start

It can seem overwhelming or confusing to start from scratch, but when you work with an experienced estate planning attorney they’ll make the process as manageable and straightforward as possible. It usually begins with some paperwork where you list your assets and dependents, and then you go from there. One step at a time, at your own pace. 

It’s Too Expensive

Everyone’s situation is unique, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all price tag when it comes to estate planning. Many people assume it will be too expensive to have a professional create their living will, so they opt for “do-it-yourself” estate plans. We always recommend working with a licensed estate planning lawyer, and if you’re concerned about cost, schedule a free consultation to get an idea of how much it will cost and if there are payment plans available. 

I Don’t Have Many Assets 

An estate plan isn’t only about who gets what when you pass away. Your estate plan will also dictate vital information about what happens if you become medically incapacitated, or if you’re suddenly unable to make medical and financial decisions for yourself. Your family or your close friends will appreciate having clear instructions if they ever need to step in on your behalf. 

It’s Not a Big Deal

We’ve spoken with many people who say they’re planning to spend all of their money before their time comes, so why create an estate plan? However, we can’t predict the future, and accidents, injuries and illnesses happen every single day. You don’t want to leave your spouse, your children, or your extended family in a position where they’re having to make decisions about your estate while also going through an emotionally devastating time. This is singularly the most important thing you can do before you pass to make the grieving process a little bit easier for your loved ones. 

For more information about starting the estate planning process, or if you have any questions about elder law, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. You could also visit our website at:

What’s an Estate Planning Attorney’s Job Description?

Estate planning attorney New Jersey

Estate planning attorneys are responsible for a wide range of legal issues related to estates and estate planning. You may think that estate planning is something you only think about later in life, but we know that life is very unpredictable and you never know what might happen, so being prepared by having a valid estate plan is an essential way to protect yourself and your family. You can’t plan for the unexpected, so we recommend getting your affairs in order. Here’s how an estate planning attorney can help:

Last Will and Testament: This document outlines how you wish your possessions and properties, including your money, to be distributed after your death. Some people are under the false assumption that this is only relevant for very wealthy individuals, but everyone should have a Last Will and Testament drawn up that explains very clearly how to distribute their assets. This will help eliminate any fighting and tension among surviving family members. 

Power of Attorney: This document authorizes another person – an individual of your choice – to act on your behalf if you become mentally unable to. Power of Attorney can be applied to financial matters, medical decisions, business decisions, and more. 

Choosing an executor: An executor is the person who oversees the distribution of your estate and ensures it’s carried out properly. Everyone must nominate an executor for their will. Your attorney can help you decide who the best person is for the job.

It’s never too early to create your estate plan

Unfortunately, when people pass away without a valid estate plan, the distribution of their assets is sometimes passed onto a state court. When this happens there’s no way to ensure that the deceased person’s wishes are carried out and it can result in family arguments during what is already a stressful and emotional time. Don’t wait until it’s too late to make your wishes clear. Speak with a NJ estate planning attorney today and get to work on your estate plan. 

If you are in need of a New Jersey estate planning attorney, or if you have any other questions regarding your estate, please contact our team at SCC Legal today.

What you need to know legally before closing on a home

Home buying tips from our professional real estate lawyers

Buying your first home is a hugely important and exciting time. Our New Jersey real estate lawyers have helped many first-time homebuyers close on their homes, so we’ve put together this helpful home closing checklist with legal action points you must be aware of. We recommend being fully prepared because closing on a home is stressful, sometimes frustrating, and when you’re organized and thorough, it protects yourself and your investment.

About to close on your first home? Here’s our checklist

  1. Get your paperwork organized. Buying a home usually results in a mountain of paperwork, so get a binder and organize all of your important documents. This includes proof of homeowners insurance, government-issued photo ID, a copy of your contract with the sellers, all inspection reports, and your mortgage forms.
  2. Take care of all contingencies. Contingencies are things the buyer agrees they’ll do before the purchase is complete. Common contingencies include home inspections, appraisals, and financing. This means as the buyer you can have the home professionally inspected, have it appraised by a third party, and if you’re unable to obtain a mortgage you can legally back out of the deal. 
  3. Get final mortgage approval. While a financing contingency protects you in case your mortgage isn’t approved, you don’t want it to come to that. Once you make your down payment, your loan will go through the underwriting process before it’s finalized. 
  4. Clear the title. Legally owning the home means the title is in your name, and in order for the title to be in your name, your lender requires a title check to be run and ensure no one else has any legal claims to the house.

Legal representation when buying a house in NJ 

Buying a house, especially when it’s your first home, is rarely a straightforward process. New buyers can also be at a slight disadvantage because they aren’t aware of common pitfalls, which is why we recommend working with experienced real estate lawyers. Partnering with a NJ based attorney will make the journey smoother and can protect you and your future home from any unforeseen blips. 

If you’d like more information about the many legalities involved in buying a home, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why so many New Jersey homeowners trust us as their real estate lawyers.

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 “

At what age should I start thinking about estate planning?

Tips from a New Jersey estate planning attorney

If you think estate planning is something you don’t need to do until you retire, then think again. There are many common misconceptions about estate planning, such as only wealthy people need an estate planning attorney and it’s only something to think about once you’re nearing the end of your career. You may also think that if you don’t have many assets then you don’t need an estate plan, but that simply isn’t true. 

Estate planning consists of a variety of legal documents, including a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization, and Revocable Living Trust, to name a few. In this article, we’ll discuss when you should start planning your estate, and how our NJ estate planning attorneys can help.

When you should start planning your estate

When you’re in your 20’s:

  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Once you turn 18, you are legally responsible for your own health decisions. Accidents and illnesses happen to people of all ages without warning, and if you become incapacitated and unable to make your own healthcare decisions, Power of Attorney for Healthcare designates someone to make those decisions on your behalf. 

When you’re in your 30’s: 

  • Will and Trust. Adults in their 30’s often have children, are married, and may own their first property. Your Will specifies who will inherit your assets, and your Trust is for transferring your assets to whomever you designate as your beneficiary. 
  • Guardianship. If you have kids, designate their legal guardian(s) in case something happens to you. 

When you’re in your 40’s:

  • If you haven’t already, now is the time to ensure your parents have their estate plans in order. It’s not always a pleasant conversation to have, but it’s necessary for the security of your family. 
  • Perhaps you’re now part of a blended family, or you have step-children you didn’t have in your 30’s. Be sure to update your Will to reflect your current family situation.

Here’s some advice from a New Jersey elder law attorney

As you can see, estate planning isn’t only for people nearing retirement age. Whether you’re in your 20’s and just starting out in your career, or you’re in your late 40’s and have accumulated some valuable assets, it’s always the right time to contact a NJ estate planning attorney and ensure your plan is in order. 

If you have any questions about estate planning, or would like more information about getting your estate in order, 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 to look for in a real estate attorney

Choosing a New Jersey real estate attorney

New Jersey real estate attorneys can give you valuable guidance and assistance in a variety of transactions. Whether you’re thinking of purchasing a new home or you’re interested in commercial real estate, we recommend working with a property lawyer who can ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Unfortunately real estate – both commercial and residential – often come with unforeseen liabilities. It’s on you as the buyer to uncover any potential liabilities and to take action before completing your purchase. Even seasoned real estate pros often encounter liabilities they didn’t see coming, and this is why it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced real estate attorney when purchasing a property.

Here’s what to look for when hiring a property lawyer:

  Choose an attorney who specializes in real estate. This may sound obvious, but some people choose friends or family friends to represent them, instead of someone who specializes in buying and selling property. Real estate legislation is complex and changes all the time, so you need an expert in the field.

  Someone with many years of experience. You want a real estate attorney who has facilitated hundreds, if not thousands of property transactions. Unexpected surprises are never something you want when it comes to real estate, so look for a lawyer who has been practicing real estate law consistently for many years.

  Use the Bar Association to vet your choices. The Bar Association will be able to give you a list of licensed real estate attorneys in your area – simply visit their website, input your location and criteria, and then you’ll get a list of qualified local candidates.

Real estate guidance from NJ experts who can help

Buying real estate is a huge decision that requires careful consideration and planning. Flippancy and lack of thoroughness can result in major headaches for you as a buyer, which is why we recommend partnering with a trusted property lawyer to ensure a smooth transaction. Having an expert on your side removes some of the stress from the process, and you’ll be in your new property sooner without any issues.

If you have any questions about matters related to commercial or residential real estate, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why so many people across New Jersey choose us as their trusted real estate attorneys.

Estate Planning: 5 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid Litigation

estate planning

With large amounts of money at stake, some otherwise good and kind people can exhibit behaviors that are based on want and greed. At SCC Legal, we’ve seen our share of horror shows in estate litigation cases over our many years handling all aspects of elder law. If there is no last Will or Testament, no proper estate plan in place when mom or dad passes, children or other family members may begin to fight over who deserves, or who controls what assets.

When siblings or other beneficiaries engage in clearly dishonest behavior, or refuse to be transparent during estate administration or guardianship proceedings, other beneficiaries may suspect they are being cheated. Sometimes these remaining children have moved far away and are finding it difficult to keep tabs on the distribution of assets here in New Jersey. In these cases, parties have little choice but to engage a qualified NJ elder law attorney to represent their interests, and protect their rights under the law. For many, it is a matter of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that is at risk, if they don’t do something legally, and do it quickly.

How to Minimize Infighting Over Your Estate and Assets

Even with a legal estate executor or administrator these cases can get ugly, ending up in a courtroom. That’s why it’s important to have a DETAILED estate plan in place, especially if you own valuable real estate, significant stock or collectable assets, or a business that needs to survive you. A well thought out estate plan coupled with an EFFECTIVE will, can help ensure your final wishes are met, your loved ones are cared for after your passing and avoids nasty litigation cases that could break up your family – if it is done correctly

With most things, it helps to know what not to do first. You’d be surprised to see how one simple mistake in your estate plan can end in a costly court battle. Here are five of the most common estate planning mistakes to avoid provided by the SCC Legal team in Fairfield, NJ. 

  1. Thinking you’re too young to create an estate plan. Estate planning should be thought of before passing away in order to give you ample time to create a plan you’re comfortable with. As soon as you start to live independently and gather assets, you should start planning your estate. This will ensure your property goes to the people most important to you, who need it most – not to those the state selects.
  2. Excluding the Advance Healthcare Directive. This is a legal document giving the person of your choosing the ability to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you be unable to. If you have strong feelings about whether you prefer to be kept alive (or not) in certain medical situations like a coma, this is a very important document to consider when creating your plan.
  3. Forgetting to add your business to your estate plan. For many people, their business is more than their livelihood – it’s their passion. However, it is often forgotten about when it comes to estate planning. Consider what would happen to your business if you passed away – who should it go to? Is there someone who can buy it? How will this affect your heirs?
  4. Taking a DIY approach to estate planning. In reality, the technical side of estate planning is very complex – it’s not as simple as leaving certain assets to certain people. The tax side, for example, needs to be managed very carefully in order to ensure the least amount of tax possible is levied on your estate. This will have a significant effect on the outcome of your estate and needs to be addressed by a professional who knows this system intimately and can give you solid advice.
  5. Choosing a problematic executor. This is the person who will be responsible for administering your estate and, as such, should not benefit from the distribution of your estate. It’s very important the chosen person knows you and your family well, supports your views and has the ability to perform their duties without any issues. An estate planning lawyer can help you decide who will fit this position, explain their duties and even help add a third party who can assist the executor, such as a bank trust department.

Avoid Estate Litigation by Using a NJ Estate Planning Attorney

As we mentioned above, estate litigations can destroy relationships between your surviving family members and rack up substantial legal and court costs. The best way to keep your heirs out of this type of situation after you pass away is to ensure you work with a reputable estate planning attorney to create a solid estate plan and last Will or Testament.

Frank Campisano is an estate planning attorney at Sedita, Campisano and Campisano (SCC Legal) in New Jersey, who brings an exceptional level of patience and compassion to this often emotional process. With many years of experience, he can assist you in developing a plan that addresses all your requirements, ensuring your hard work and assets go to the people you love, rather than to the government or other greedy family members. At SCC Legal, trust is the key – and we’ll give you all the time, advice and expertise you need to ensure your wishes are carried out. 

For more information about estate planning and litigation, or to book an appointment with Frank Campisano, please contact us today or visit our website at:

What are power of attorney duties in New Jersey?

Power of attorney

Power of attorney is a common legal phrase, and it means the authority to act on behalf of someone else. Power of attorney can cover medical decisions, financial decisions, and a range of other personal decisions that a person may be unable to make for themselves if they become incapacitated. 

While working with an attorney to create your estate plan, you’ll be asked to create a Power of Attorney document, which gives someone you trust the legal authority to act on your behalf. And while each state has different laws regarding the specific scope of duties, you can sometimes nominate different people to handle different aspects of your life, like medical and financial. 

In New Jersey, Power of Attorney duties include the following:

Durable Power of Attorney. This is most commonly used to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf, and it’s an important component of a comprehensive estate plan. If you become incapacitated due to illness or an accident, a Durable Power of Attorney dictates who will step in and make decisions about your healthcare. You can select one of your children, a trusted family friend, or a trusted medical professional to act on your behalf. 

General Power of Attorney. As the name suggests, General Power of Attorney gives the person you nominate the authority to act on your behalf in a wide range of situations including making decisions about your finances, legal decisions, your properties and other assets. 

General Power of Attorney is only valid if the person is lucid and deemed competent enough to give permission for their nominee to begin acting on their behalf. If the person becomes incapacitated, or is deemed incompetent as a result of physical or mental illness, the General Power of Attorney becomes invalid, and the Durable Power of Attorney is invoked. 

NJ estate planning with SCC Legal

Power of Attorney is something to be taken very seriously, and we recommend consulting with an estate planning attorney before deciding who will act on your behalf. It’s important to nominate people you trust. Not to mention, you may want to grant Power of Attorney to multiple people, meaning you want one person to make your healthcare decisions and a different person to make your financial decisions. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you create a Power of Attorney document, please contact us today. We’re happy to provide professional guidance regarding Power of Attorney in New Jersey, and other related estate planning matters. 

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