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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
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Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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Cherry Hill NJ Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

3 ways that you can try to avoid probate

Having to go through the probate process is something that can be costly and complicated. There are some ways that you can help your loved ones to avoid having to go through the probate process. Using these methods can save them time and money.

One thing that you can do is make sure that you have a payable on death designation on your financial accounts. This is something that you can set up on bank accounts and similar accounts. The person who you designate here can access these accounts when you pass away.

Know when you can contest a loved one's will

After a loved one dies, you are probably going to be an emotional mess. Your heightened emotional state might make you more likely to react to everything around you. If you find out that your loved one's will wasn't set up how you thought it was, your emotions might take hold of you. This is understandable, but make sure that you use this to fuel a legal response to the issue.

If you should have been included in a will but were left out or if you don't think that the will was set up properly, you might contest the will. We can help you to determine if you have a case to call the will into question.

Your estate plan covers more than what you might realize

If you are an adult, you need an estate plan. There really isn't any situation that would get you out of this need unless you are truly broke and have no possessions and if you don't care what happens to you if you can't make decisions for yourself. If you have children, you need an estate plan. If you have any valuables, you need an estate plan. If you have any thoughts about what you want to happen with your medical care or your finances if you can't make decisions for yourself, you need an estate plan.

Still, there are many adults who think that there is always another day to come up with a will. There are many who think that they don't need to worry about estate planning. Up to 69 percent of parents who have children still living at home don't have an estate plan.

Estate planning is very important if you have children

As a parent, you want your children to have a good life that is filled with stability and opportunity. You are probably doing your best to ensure that this happens. But, have you taken the time to think about what will happen to your children if something happens to you and your child's other parent? This is a scary question for many parents.

You might have ideas about what you want to happen to your children if you aren't around any longer. Having this idea and putting it into action are two very different things. If you pass away and you don't have things in order for your children, they might end up in foster care until the court can sort out what is going to happen to them.

Estate administration might be a complex undertaking

The administrator of an estate has a lot of duties to fulfill. We recently discussed the duties of the administrator when the decedent has debts. This is only one consideration that the administrator has to think about. We understand how it might be a bit overwhelming to have to deal with the duties of estate administration when you are still trying to deal with your loved one's death.

We are here to help you learn about what duties you have as the administrator. We will also help you to learn about the ways that you might be able to get your duties done.

What are your obligations if a loved one died in debt?

The death of a loved one is a sad time under any circumstances, and it can be a stressful one if you have been tasked with administering the estate. However, what if you find out that the deceased had considerable debt? What are your responsibilities?

Surviving relatives of a person with debt have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. The FDCPA makes it illegal for debt collectors, including collection agencies, companies that buy debt and attorneys, from using unfair, deceptive or abusive practices to collect money owed by a deceased person.

Living wills can do a lot for you in your final days

We recently discussed some of the specific things you should consider if you are going to become an organ donor. Just like with most other end-of-life decisions, you should discuss this one with your family members. We can help you to learn about what plans to make for your estate plan, as well as what your options are to ensure that your wishes are clearly conveyed.

A very important aspect of your estate plan is your living will. You need to let your loved ones know what kinds of medical care you want in your final days. This can be a very difficult proposition since most people don't like to think about these things; however, being able to let them know precisely what you want can be very valuable.

National Donate Life Month: Considering organ donation

During estate planning, you often concentrate on external assets such as cash, real estate or family heirlooms. In the past, we've talked about the importance of considering everything you leave behind, which might include creative or intellectual assets. One other thing you have to give is yourself -- specifically, your body. April is National Donate Life Month, which is a great time to consider whether you might want to be an organ donor or not.

One of the reasons that many people avoid signing up to be an organ donor is that they buy into some myths about the subject. For example, many people believe that if they are on the organ donor list, then medical staff might not work as hard to save their lives. The thinking on this comes from a misconception that doctors and nurses might look at organs as more valuable than the person. While it's true that your organs can save other lives, medical professionals who are treating you are concerned with you.

Three reasons to get legal help with probate

Probate is the process by which courts adjudicate estates. Courts apply state laws to the matter, and they also consider the legal documents that are present in the estate, including wills and trusts. Most estates go through some version of the probate process, though certain assets can be protected from the process by placing them in trusts. Payable-on-death accounts such as life insurance policies also don't have to go through probate.

When dealing with probate matters, there are numerous reasons you might want to have an experienced professional on your side. One of those reasons is to protect the wishes of the loved one who has passed away. Likely he or she had certain desires for the legacy of the estate, and other people might want to change how those things are being handled. By working with a probate lawyer, you can help protect your loved one's legacy.

Giving money away now to avoid taxes later

If you know that you are going to pass away with a healthy level of assets in your estate, experts say that giving gifts to your heirs now and throughout your life can reduce the amount of tax that is levied on your estate. Federal estate taxes don't kick in until your estate is valued more than at $5.49 million, and married couples can leverage their status for an exemption that is effectively double the number for a single person.

It's easy to underestimate the value of your total estate, though; when you throw in real property such as land and homes, you could end up over that threshold. Even if you don't reach the federal threshold, many states have their own estate or inheritance taxes that can be a burden for heirs, and the threshold for those taxes is often lower.