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Estate planning involves more than just jotting down a will

When some people think about estate planning, they think about writing out a will that lets their loved ones know how they want their assets divided. Many people will probably be surprised to learn that there is much more to estate planning than simply writing out a will.

One important component of creating a comprehensive estate plan is planning for the end of your life. This involves naming people to handle your affairs if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. You should choose someone who can handle your finances and someone to manage your health care. It is important to note that both of these duties would only go into effect if you are unable to make your own choices.

You should also create a living will or health care directive. This document spells out what medical care you will allow if you are at the end of your life. For example, you can make your wishes known about specific procedures like resuscitation or life support.

When it comes to your estate, you will need to name an executor. This is the person who handles your estate after you pass away. The executor prepares and files your final tax returns, pays your bills and settles all of your estate. This person also distributes the assets you own in accordance with your will. He or she also cares for your property until it is taken over by your heirs.

Finally, you have to determine if you need a trust. If you do, you will have to name a trustee to handle the affairs of the trust. This person takes care of the maintenance, taxes, insurance, rent collection and other aspects of any property in the trusts.

Each of these considerations takes a lot of thought. It is important for anyone who is creating an estate plan or reviewing one to understand New Jersey laws pertaining to estate planning. Knowing the law can help you ensure that the specific items in your estate plan are conveyed in a legal manner.

Source:, "Beyond wills: other essential elements of estate planning," July 1, 2014. 

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