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Kearny Estate Blog

Limits to hand-written wills

A previous post on this blog talked about the ongoing legal conflict surrounding the estate of the late, great singer Aretha Franklin. The so-called Queen of Soul died last year.

As that post discussed, one of the issues is that while Ms. Franklin left no formal will, she did leave several handwritten documents in her home which she styled as wills. The documents did include detailed instructions about how Ms. Franklin wanted to distribute her property after her death and appeared at first glance to be in her handwriting.

Do you know when to update your estate plan?

Many people procrastinate drafting an estate plan, so if you already have an estate plan, you may be a step or two ahead of the pack. However, this should not mean that you have finished estate planning for good.

Estate plans are usually the most effective when they reflect current laws, your current situation and your current estate planning goals. This means that as your life changes, you may need to revisit your estate plan to make sure it reflects those changes.

Common mistakes for executors to avoid

As this blog has discussed before, executors and personal representatives in New Jersey have a lot of obligations they are expected to fulfill in a timely fashion. To summarize, their job is to collect the assets of a deceased loved one, pay off all valid debts and expenses and then distribute whatever is left to the heirs according to either the law or the terms of the will.

The process can be more complicated than one might think. In many cases, a person who is not accustomed to handling legal affairs will strongly want to consider consulting with an attorney who has experience with probate and estate administration.

How does joint real estate play in to an estate plan?

Many New Jersey residents own real estate together with other people. It is therefore important for people to understand how real estate gets passed down when an owner of the property dies.

For example, property owners may choose to own property as tenants in common. Under these circumstances each person owns a certain percentage of the property, even if the property is not literally divided in to parts. Should the person dies, his or her share of the equity in the property will pass down under the terms of his or her will or other estate planning documents.

Queen of Soul's estate still getting ironed out

A recent court hearing involving the estate of Aretha Franklin, the famous vocalist known as the Queen of Soul for her hit songs like "Respect," showed that the battle over her fortune is far from over.

The most recent court hearing suggested that a lot more than the estimated $50 million thought to be at stake may in fact factor in to the estate's overall value. This is because many of her songs, as well as her image and likeness, are still valuable commodities.

Medicaid planning requires an early start to succeed

A previous post on this blog talked about Medicaid planning. This subset of estate planning can be an important part of a New Jersey couple's overall financial strategy for affording the medical care they will likely need in their old age.

If it is successful, Medicaid planning can allow a person to legally qualify for government health care benefits through Medicaid while still be able to pass at least some property down to his loved ones.

What is Medicaid planning?

The concept of Medicaid planning has grown in popularity over the last decade or so. Many New Jersey residents may have heard about Medicaid planning but may not be fully aware of what it entails.

Basically, Medicaid planning is meant to get around some of the problems with Medicare. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those of retirement age, does not pay for every service someone of that age may need. For example, Medicare will not cover the bulk of a person's stay in an assisted care facility and, for that matter, may also not provide for in-home care.

The to-do list of an executor

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, executors of estates in New Jersey have a lot of things that they need to do. Many of the items on their to-do list are legal requirements that come with important deadlines or timeframes.

If an executor fails to meet these deadlines, there can be serious consequences both to the executor and to the heirs of the estate.

What can I do if an executor is not doing his job?

New Jersey residents who stand to benefit from a loved one's estate or trust have to put a lot of faith in the executor of the estate or, in the case of a trust, in the trustee.

These people have a lot of power over a deceased person's property, but with that power comes the responsibility to make sure the property gets handled carefully. The must also transfer the property to the heirs and beneficiaries according to the law and to the instructions in the will or trust. This responsibility is what the law calls fiduciary, meaning that, as a trusted person, the executor has a strict obligation to act in the best interests of the estate.

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