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Kearny Estate Blog

Not much progress in the Prince estate after 3 threes

As many music fans in New Jersey may know, it has been about three years since the rock-and-roll legend Prince died at his residence in another state. He was 57 years old when he died.

While his untimely death offers many lessons to the American public, perhaps the biggest lesson is that it is important to do at least some minimal estate planning, such as creating a will. This is especially true when one's estate is reported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as was the case for Prince. However, even those of much more modest means should heed the same lesson the case of Prince's estate offers.

Overview of guardianships in New Jersey

Many people in New Jersey have parents and other relatives who are older, sick or otherwise suffering under a disability. Such conditions can make it hard for such people to make financial and other decisions for themselves.

If such a person did not create a power of attorney, then it may be necessary for a loved one to get legal authority to care for their friend or relative and manage property on their behalf.

What powers does an executor have?

In the context of administering a New Jersey estate that is going through the probate process, perhaps the person with the most important role is the executor, who may also be referred to as a fiduciary, an administrator or a personal representative.

The job of this person, quite often a loved one of the deceased, is to gather up the deceased person's property, pay off any legitimate debts and bills and then distribute the balance to the deceased person's lawful beneficiaries, all under at least the informal supervision of the court.

The benefits of a special needs trust

Many residents of New Jersey have relatives and loved ones who face physical or mental challenges. The special needs of these loved ones can make it very hard for them to support themselves or even to live without constant assistance.

Aside from a natural desire to leave such people an inheritance, New Jersey residents may also recognize that their loved one truly needs all the financial help he or she can get. For these and other reasons, a person will likely want to include a gift or inheritance for their loved one as part of their estate planning.

Why is estate conflict common among stepmothers and stepchildren?

It is clearly not the case that all stepmothers are the wicked type that one finds in old children's tales. However, there is at least anecdotal evidence that many probate battles are fought between stepmothers and their adult stepchildren, that is, the children of a man who later re-married and then died.

Based largely on his own observations, one expert estimated that about one-half of all probate litigation is due to some underlying issues between a man's current spouse, or widow, and his children from a previous relationship.

What is undue influence?

One of the most difficult things about going through the probate process, or even administering a trust that operates outside of probate, is handling conflict between those who stand to benefit from a will or trust.

It is unfortunate, but sometimes, even despite the best planning, formal will contests or legal challenges to a trust are inevitable, as a disgruntled would-be heir or beneficiary is willing to do what they legally can to get what they think they deserve.

Remedies when an attorney in fact behaves badly

A previous post on this blog discussed what a New Jersey resident, can do if he or she suspects that a loved one is being taken advantage of by his or her attorney in fact. To review, an attorney in fact is someone the loved one appointed via a power of attorney to handle the loved one's financial affairs.

While the previous post talked about what someone can do going forward. For instance, a person can revoke the power of attorney and stop abusive transfers of property.

How to detect misuse of power of attorney

When you are working on your estate plan and granting power of attorney, this person will need to be someone you fully trust since they you are giving them considerable power over your finances, health and property.

Unfortunately, there can be times when this person you trusted can abuse this position and begin to make decisions that benefit them and not you. If you or your family members suspect abuse has been detected using power of attorney, action should be taken immediately to ensure decisions can be reversed or property can be recovered.

What is a spendthrift trust and how can it help me?

A previous post talked about a type of trust called a living trust. A living trust is a convenient vehicle for New Jersey residents who have wealth to hand that money down to the next generation. Oftentimes, the living trust in the long term can save a family the costs of probate and may have tax benefits as well.

One type of living trust is something called a spendthrift trust, although spendthrifts trust can also be created through a person's will. While it will generally give a trustee the same leeway to distribute wealth to one's children or other beneficiaries, it will also include certain provisions that may make it harder for a child to get access to the trust funds at will.

Overview of living trusts

Many people in New Jersey have probably heard of a living trust. While many people who promote them as valuable estate planning documents for good reasons, there are also a handful who may not accurately or completely inform residents of the benefits and costs of living trusts.

A living trust, as the name implies, is a trust document in which the settlors, or owners of the trust, are still alive. They place their money in the trust, which is basically an independent account subject to detailed rules about how it gets maintained and distributed. Generally, the owners name themselves as trustees, at least until they die and their children or other heirs take over.

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