Salient Considerations in a Time of Transition


WELCOME 2019!  The new year is upon us and like most individuals, you may have made resolutions for the new year.  Often times when making resolutions, we forget to address the important matters and I challenge you this year to think outside the box and make a resolution to address your estate planning matters using the 7 steps below.

The burden on the family of an incapacitated loved one is increased when they are unprepared.  Crisis often arises as a result of their lack of knowledge of their loved one’s personal matters and these crises require legal counsel.  Many of these situations can be avoided with proper planning.  We counsel our clients to be proactive in these areas and minimize the stress and expense for their family.  The following are some of our top suggestions:

1. Tell Your Story:

Prepare a letter of last instruction to help transition the details of your personal life to those who will be helping you when you are no longer able to act for yourself.

1a.       Personal Financial “Blue Print” Prepare a list of your passwords, assets, and liabilities – complete with account numbers.  Include the names, addresses, and telephone numbers for your financial planner, attorney and accountant.  Identify the location of your bank/brokerage statements, bills, and tax returns.

1b.       Personal Medical “Blue Print” Prepare a list of your health insurance policies and claim centers, medications, physicians and pharmacies.  Prepare a medical history or obtain a copy from your primary care physician.  State your preferences for hospitals, rehabilitation centers and care services.

2. Financial Spring Cleaning:

Review the manner in which your assets are titled with your fiduciary team (consisting of your lawyer, accountant and financial planner).  Many clients name a joint account holder for convenient access to the account.  However, a creditor of the joint account holder could attempt to collect that money or the joint account holder could inherit it to the exclusion of the other heirs. This result is normally not contemplated and can be avoided by designating an agent under a power of attorney for the account as opposed to a joint account holder.

3. Secure Your Finances:

Identity theft is rampant.  Predators are very creative and we have even seen the elderly duped by paying for sham “investments” by credit cards leaving clients with huge credit card debt and no viable recourse.

4. Fiduciary Check:

Review your Health Care Power of Attorney/Advanced Health Care Directive, Durable Power of Attorney and Last Will and Testament.  Do your fiduciary choices remain viable?  Prepare a list of fiduciaries along with their contact information and display it in a prominent location so it is available in the case of emergency.

5. Care Consultant:

Consider engaging a geriatric care consultant to help ease any transition between your apartment here and the health center or a hospital or an extended care facility.  A geriatric care consultant can monitor, navigate the administrative maze which accompanies this process, identify care requirements and advocate for you or your loved one.  This is a particularly useful tool for those whose loved ones are not local.

6. Make Binding Final Arrangements:

Under New Jersey law, the only way to make legally binding funeral arrangements is to sign a document in the same fashion you would sign a will with witnesses and a notary.  Avoid the potential for disagreements by executing a proper binding statement.

7. Decide Who Gets Your Engagement Ring and the Family China:

The disposition of your personal property by your heirs is a common catalyst for disputes.  New Jersey law allows you to dispose of your tangible personal property by way of a memorandum which is a written statement provided it is signed and dated by you.  Make sure the use of the technique is described under your will.


About the Author

Chair, Business & Tax Practice and Chair, Estates, Trusts & Wills Practice. Ms. Khaleel concentrates her practice in the representation of individuals, business owners, medical, dental and other professionals in the areas of estate planning, estate and trust administration, business succession planning, transactional and tax planning. Routinely handles matters of special needs planning including guardianship applications. Experience in complex business/estate and trust litigation matters in conjunction with the Litigation Group.

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