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Estate planning for younger New Jersey individuals

All U.S. states, including New Jersey, have adopted measures that govern aspects of estate planning, including the creation of wills and trusts, and the legal validity of these documents. Regardless of your age or health condition, planning and managing your assets and property is necessary to avoid problems in the future. Failing to properly plan your estate can eliminate your say in how assets are transferred to heirs.

Because the laws change over time, it is important to regularly revise your will and other estate planning documents. In addition to the basic wills and trusts, everyone over the age of 18 should draft and update a health care proxy, which allows a representative to make health care decisions for you.

For instance, if you fall into a coma, a health care proxy would allow your representative to decide whether you should be on life support. After you have drafted your health care proxy, it can also be a good idea to give a copy to your doctor or primary care physician. Although that person may not treat you in case of emergency, that can at least increase the chances of getting it into the hospital's database.

Similarly, a power of attorney designates a person to make important decisions regarding your estate and assets in the event that you become incapacitated. Without such a document, your property, estate, assets and investments will likely be controlled by the state, which could result in decisions you would not approve of.

While it can be uncomfortable to plan for the events following your death, properly managing your estate before it becomes a problem can help ensures that your assets are transferred in the way you'd like. Effective estate planning also reduces the responsibilities of your family in managing posthumous finances.

Source: Business West, "Estate Planning: Not Just for Elders," Hyman G. Darling, 7 June 2011

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