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New Jersey individuals shouldn't be secretive about estate plan

You don't have to be part of the New Jersey rich and famous to need an estate plan. In fact, just about anyone in the general population can use an estate plan to help divide assets among beneficiaries when the time comes. The key, though, is to start talking about the process as early as possible.

Many individuals keep their estate-planning desires a secret, even from their closest loved ones. However, the fewer people who know a person's preferred estate-planning wishes, the greater the chance that those wishes may not be upheld. While it isn't necessary for someone to tell a vast number of family members and friends about his or her estate plan, it is wise for one to at least discuss it with a professional.

One of the first steps toward being more communicative about estate-planning expectations is to compose a comprehensive list of all assets, such as retirement savings, real estate, business interests and more. From that point, each of those assets can be explored to determine how they should best be distributed. There's no set pattern to how individuals want to divide their assets; therefore, it's critical that the asset's owner be the one to set the guidelines upon his or her death rather than forcing a court to make decisions.

An estate plan shouldn't be seen as a document that can be pushed off indefinitely. Instead, every New Jersey resident should seek help in creating the plan and then regularly tweak it as assets change. Every time a new job is taken, a home is sold or purchased, or an heir is born or dies, the estate plan may need to be revisited. This is a normal process, and one that will make execution of the dissolution of the estate easier, rather than keeping the wishes of the deceased a mystery to be solved.

Source: myedmondsnews.com, "Money Talk: From wills to trusts to gifting, estate planning applies to everyone", Erin Eddins, Dec. 22, 2014

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