NJ Estate Planning: Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, and the days after the initial shock wears off come with a host of challenges. While you are trying to balance your emotions and how to navigate life without this person, there is the legal aspect of loss that needs to be addressed. From following their dying wishes on how they’d like to be put to rest to guaranteeing the equitable distribution of the deceased’s inheritance, there are crucial legal steps you have to take while you are still grieving. In this process, estate planning is essential since it offers advice on handling assets, beneficiaries, and legal issues. In this article, our estate planning lawyers in NJ will discuss how to legally proceed after the passing of a loved one and detail the significance of an established estate plan. 

Obtain a death certificate

Getting a death certificate is the first thing you should do after a loved one passes away. A death certificate is a legal record the state produces attesting to the person’s passing. It is necessary for several legal and economic reasons and acts as proof of death. You must contact the New Jersey Department of Health, Vital Statistics Office, or the county registrar’s office where the death took place to obtain a death certificate in New Jersey. You can also get copies of the death certificate from their chosen funeral home.

Meeting with the Executor of the Deceased’s Estate

Speaking with an estate planning attorney after obtaining the death certificate is crucial. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can offer insightful advice throughout the estate administration procedure. If an estate plan was created for the deceased, they will analyze it and advise you on the next action. The lawyer can help you navigate the probate process, which entails certifying the will and distributing assets in accordance with the laws of intestacy if the deceased did not have an estate plan.

SCC Legal has assisted New Jersey families with estate preparation for over 40 years. Our skilled attorneys will collaborate closely with you to ensure a quick and easy process. They are familiar with the complexities of estate administration. We provide a free initial consultation to review your particular issues and offer a realistic understanding of your legal choices.

The Estate’s Distribution

Identifying and dispersing the deceased’s assets to the beneficiaries is part of the estate distribution process. The assets will be dispersed following the terms of any valid will the decedent left behind. However, New Jersey’s intestacy laws will control the distribution if there is no will or if the will is invalid. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney should be consulted at every stage of the estate distribution procedure. They will manage complicated paperwork, offer legal advice, and ensure New Jersey law is followed. In order to prevent family conflicts during the distribution of the inheritance, an attorney will also help resolve any disagreements or difficulties.

Speak With a NJ Estate Planning Attorney 

The last thing you want to worry about after a loved one passes, is having to go to court. Estate planning is essential for successful asset distribution and avoiding costly estate litigation. Our professional team of attorneys at SCC legal is committed to providing our clients with excellent service and favorable outcomes regarding estate planning, elder law, business law, real estate law and even environmental law

To schedule a free consultation regarding your estate planning needs in New Jersey, or if you are interested in any of the other legal services we offer, please contact SCC Legal today or visit us at: https://www.scclegal.com/

The Biggest Mistakes People Make In Their Wills

Avoid These Mistakes When Creating Your Will

Everyone needs a will, no matter how old you are or how many assets you have. Many people don’t think about creating a will until later in life, but any estate planning attorney will tell you that it’s important to create a will as soon as you can, and ensure it’s regularly updated throughout your life as your circumstances change. Trying to create your will on your own, leaves you vulnerable to mistakes that can cause your family a lot of headaches and financial strain during an already upsetting time. That being said, our estate planning lawyer in NJ would like to share some insight on some of the biggest mistakes people make in their wills, and how you can avoid them. 

Assigning Co-Executors

The executor is the person who ensures the instructions you leave in your will are carried out properly. You select your executor, and many people choose a spouse, a child, or a long-time family friend. While it is legally possible to choose two or more executors, we always recommend naming a single executor simply because it makes the administration of the will easier. When there is more than one executor there are often disagreements, differences of opinion, and emotions can become heated. It can cause a lot of unnecessary tension within your family, which is probably the last thing you want to pass on. 

Being Too Vague About Sentimental Items

Sometimes people will include statements in their will along the lines of: “All of my children shall receive an equal value of my assets.” The problem with this statement is that it’s not exact, which means it’s open to interpretation from all parties. For example, if you have a valuable piece of art, how will that be shared equally among your children? Or if you have two cars and three children, how is “equal value” interpreted in this situation? Be as precise as possible in your instructions to avoid confusion. 

Not Updating The Will Often Enough

Your will is not a document you create then stick it in a drawer until you die. You should update your will to reflect your circumstances, including acquiring more properties, starting new businesses, having a child or more children, getting married, getting divorced, and inheriting money or other assets. Your investment portfolio should also be reflected in your will, so we recommend reviewing your will once a year with your estate planning attorney

Not Working With A Reputable Estate Planning Lawyer in NJ

While there are many websites out there that claim to help you draft your own will, we always recommend working with a professional. An experienced estate management lawyer will ensure your exact wishes are accurately reflected in your will, and they will ensure your instructions are as clear as possible to avoid any nasty litigation between family members.

For more information about creating or updating your will, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today and visit our website at: https://scclegal.com

How Estate Planning Can Help You Afford Assisted Living

While many folks think estate planning is for the rich or the dying, it’s actually a benefit when done well before you actually need it. It benefits everyone of all asset and income levels, whether you have one child or many. It especially benefits you, if you think you may want or need some level of services in a senior community in the future. 

It turns out that a thought out estate plan, executed well before you move to a community can prepare your assets in a way that leaves more money to your family, gives less money to the government, while providing enough resources for you to enjoy a full and carefree life in a senior community. By executing an estate plan intelligently and early, a huge set of future problems can be dealt with covering all your future needs and inheritance issues, and preventing much of the mess people leave their families when they pass or get old.

How Does Estate Planning Work?

The first step is most definitely to contact a competent estate planning attorney. They will begin any good conversation with a discussion of your current major assets, your family situation, and your desires for your estate when you are gone and while you are alive. Your estate plan should take the following into consideration: who will receive your assets when you pass on, who will make financial and medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated, and even allocate funds that can help cover expenses for different senior care options, like assisted living or long term care. There are a few different routes to take to create an estate plan that encompasses all of the above. And of course you can include options that ensure your estate plan has explicit instructions to include assisted living should you want or need it.  

“A good estate plan for single persons and married couples should consider the possible loss of mental capacity as well.” Notes Frank Campisano, head of the Elder Law Division in SCC Legal, a prominent NJ Elder Law Firm. “Many people wait until dementia is active before they come to us but that can make legal proceedings and planning much more difficult.”  Frank advises that an effective estate plan should contain legal documents that plan for all types of disability. These documents usually include a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advanced Medical Directive and Proxy which allow for a client to appoint a trusted family member or friend to serve as an agent to make financial and medical decisions for the client when he or she is no longer able to because of a loss of mental capacity. For instance, if you are diagnosed with dementia, your attorney can include documentation within your estate plan that allows a trusted family member to make decisions that will help you receive professional memory care at an assisted living facility. 


Another effective tool to incorporate into an estate plan is a Revocable Living Trust, which calls for an Incapacity Trustee to step up and take control of the assets within the trust when the client is incapacitated. A revocable living trust can also protect a senior client’s financial assets by the appointment of a younger trustee, usually the client’s adult child. This will protect vulnerable seniors from scam artists who steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the elderly. Under such an arrangement, the elderly client would need the approval and consent of the trustee to make large expenditures of money, thereby thwarting the efforts of the scam artists who prey on the elderly. Online and phone scams are on the rise, and the people behind them are becoming even more clever. That being said, incorporating a Revocable Living Trust can help you save money that can be allocated towards your assisted living plan.


An experienced estate attorney will often recommend that his clients obtain long-term-care (LTC) insurance which can be used to pay for their stay in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). Many clients are reluctant to purchase an expensive long-term-care policy which they may never use. In such a case, elder law attorney Frank Campisano recommends the purchase of a whole life insurance policy with a long-term-care rider. “People become fatigued by paying the LTC insurance premiums which can only be used for Long Term Care, but a Whole Life policy has both a death benefit and can contain a rider which will enable the client to convert a portion of the policy’s death benefit to pay for long-term care in a CCRC if needed.” 

Start Your NJ Estate Plan Today to Plan for Senior Care 

Unfortunately when people receive an unexpected medical diagnosis or they experience a major fall accidentally, it can be tough to cover expenses for long-term care without a valid estate plan in place. On top of this, the financial strain can result in family arguments during what is already a stressful and emotional time. We cannot stress this enough, 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. Being proactive now will help enhance the quality of your life in your golden years – no matter what obstacles you come across down the road. 

If you are in need of a New Jersey estate planning attorney, please visit SCC Legal for more information: https://www.scclegal.com/

If you are searching for a NJ continuing care retirement community that offers scaled senior care like independent living, assisted living and long term care, please visit United Methodist Communities at Bristol Glen: https://umcommunities.org/bristolglen/


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: https://www.scclegal.com/

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: https://www.scclegal.com/

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.

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