Creating and maintaining a comprehensive estate plan is essential to preserving assets and ensuring that a beneficiary’s financial needs are met in the event that a person should die. A thorough estate plan can be created at any age and should include a Last Will & Testament and advanced directives such as a Health Care Proxy, Living Will, and Power of Attorney. Some estate plans may also include a Trust in order to protect certain assets.
A Last Will & Testament or a Trust allows an individual to direct a trustee or executor to distribute assets in a certain manner upon a person’s death. In addition, a Health Care Proxy allows individuals to designate an agent to make health care decisions on their behalf in the event he or she becomes incapacitated. Furthermore, a Power of Attorney allows a designated agent to make financial decisions on a person’s behalf in the event that he or she is incapable of doing so.
Once a comprehensive estate plan has been established, the documents should be properly stored in a safe place. Protecting the original documents is important because most institutions will not accept a copy of a Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney, or Health Care Proxy. In addition, an original copy of a Last Will and Testament must be provided to the Surrogate’s Court in order for a Will to be probated. Probate is the process where a Will is proved and accepted, and an executor is appointed and all assets are distributed to the intended recipients as stated in a final Last Will and Testament.
It is also important to consider where the original documents will be stored in order for the designated agents, executor, or trustee to access them in the event that a person becomes incapacitated or upon his or her death. Furthermore, it is important to make sure that the designated agents know where to locate the original documents. The best place to store the original estate planning documents is in a waterproof and fireproof box of a residence.
If an original estate-planning document cannot be located, it is important to speak with an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney who can assist with this complex situation. The experienced New Jersey estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, & Sweeney help seniors and their families handle all aspects of estate planning. Our New Jersey estate planning lawyers are trusted by their clients to handle each legal matter with diligence and compassion. For more information, contact our Wayne, New Jersey estate planning law firm at (973) 256-0456.