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The most critical estate planning decision for New Jersey parents

To young New Jersey parents with minor children, the possibility of death may seem so far away that it does not even bear consideration. However, anyone who picks up a newspaper, reads news online or watches television knows that people lose their lives in accidents every day. Not doing at least the basic estate planning could be disastrous for the family and children left behind.

At the very least, everyone could benefit from having a will, which outlines how an individual's affairs are to be handled in the event of death. This includes property distribution, payment of bills and taxes and -- perhaps most importantly -- who will care for minor children if both parents are deceased. Granted, the probability of both parents dying at the same time is unlikely, but it can happen. More often, one parent passes away, leaving only one living parent to raise the children -- who could die while children are still minors. This can make it critical to be sure that a will designates a person of the parents' choosing to raise the children.

Otherwise, the New Jersey courts will make that decision for the parents. For example, the parents of an only child died at the same time in a plane crash. Family members from both sides wanted custody of the little girl, and they all began arguing over what would be best for her. If her parents had not chosen to execute a will, their battle could easily have ended up in court. Fortunately, the parents executed wills, and a guardian has been appointed, resolving the issue.

Losing one or both parents is difficult enough for the children and the family as a whole. Having to endure the uncertainty of who will take care of the children can make the ordeal even worse for them. Many people believe they have plenty of time for estate planning, but if there are young children involved, the time is now.

Source: CNBC, Estate planning points way to will, trust and health proxy preparation, David Mendels, March 2, 2014

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