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Estate planning tips for LGBT couples in New Jersey

In many of our posts, we have talked about the importance of estate planning and why it is necessary for everyone to create one. In New Jersey, an estate plan provides a legal plan of action for what should happen to your estate when you die. With the right documents, an estate plan can also help ensure your loved ones know how to handle your affairs if you become sick or incapacitated.

A well-crafted estate plan usually includes several documents, including a will, living trust, durable power of attorney and an advance health directive. Although the basic estate planning components are the same for LGBT couples, some elements are more crucial.

For example, if a person dies without a will, the state decides how their assets will be divided and distributed. For many LGBT individuals, their chosen family is different than the family recognized by the state.

Powers of attorney and advance health care directives can be critical for same-sex individuals for the same reason. If you get sick or incapacitated, you might need someone to handle your financial matters on your behalf. With a power of attorney, you have the ability to legally appoint your significant other to take care of your matters.

An advance health care directive gives your loved ones the information they need to know about your end of life health care decisions. Without a health care directive in place, immediate family members may be left to make those decisions on your behalf, even if you haven't spoken with those family members in years.

Source: SDGLN, "What is LGBT estate planning?" Christopher Heritage, Bottomline Magazine, 13 May 2011

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