Wills and Trusts

Preserving Your Assets on Your Terms

Understanding Wills

A will is a written document that allows you to deal with your property so that it passes to whomever you wish to favor, almost without limitation. You can determine who gets what, when and how they get it, and what conditions and limitations there will be. You decide whether any part of your estate goes to charity and what happens if a beneficiary dies before you do. You appoint someone you trust to be your personal representative (Executor) to manage and distribute your estate to the beneficiary named in your will, and you set the rules to guide your personal representative's actions. If you have minor or incapacitated children, you can designate someone to be their guardian in case your spouse dies before you do. If your estate is large enough to be subject to taxation, you can set up trusts that will avoid or minimize taxes.

Wills are legal documents. They must contain all of the elements required by the statutes. If a will is not in writing, or it fails to contain certain provisions, it may not be accepted for probate. Similarly, the will must be executed in a certain manner. Failure to comply with the statute can lead to unintended consequences and lengthy, expensive litigation. There are lots of "how-to-do-it" books for sale, and you can purchase forms in office supply stores or on-line. Many of the forms are actually pretty good, that is, if you know which ones to select and how to fill in the blanks, and what not to use. Unfortunately, the forms don't give you any legal advice and almost always come with a disclaimer that you should not execute them without the advice of a competent attorney.

One of the most common omissions from wills that we review is the failure to designate a person to be in charge of your funeral and disposition of your remains (burial or cremation).

At the law office of Michael C. Rudolph, Esq., P.A., in Kinnelon, New Jersey, I will take the time to learn about you, your family, your assets and what your goals are with regard to your will. You can feel secure in the knowledge that the document created disposes of your estate in accordance with your wishes and is drafted and executed in compliance with applicable laws.

I have been an attorney for over 50 years and I have helped numerous clients prepare thorough, well thought-out wills that clearly relate their wishes. I will walk you through the entire process and provide you with all the options you need to make a decision that is right for you.

Understanding Trusts

A trust is property that has been identified to be held by one or more persons (the trustees), for the benefit of another person or persons (the beneficiaries) under a recognized set of rules. These rules include, among other things, instructions as to how the trust assets are to be invested, when and how income and principal are to be distributed to the beneficiaries, what happens when a beneficiary dies and when the trust is to terminate. Trusts are usually evidenced by a written document. Sometimes, trusts are created to manage assets, sometimes to achieve tax benefits, and sometimes to care for beneficiaries who are minors or are incapacitated persons. It is not uncommon for these three objectives to overlap. Trusts may be established either under a Will, or by a separate agreement signed by the Grantor and one or more trustees.

The grantor of a living or inter vivos trust has the right to make the trust irrevocable or revocable. In some states, where the probate process is complicated, time-consuming and expensive, living trusts are a popular way of avoiding probate and speeding up the distribution of an estate. New Jersey's probate process is consumer friendly, and living trusts are not needed to avoid wasting time and money. However, living trusts have their place in New Jersey because they do not have to be open to the public and, therefore, offer privacy. They are useful for second marriages to make sure that the children from prior marriages are not disinherited when their parent dies. And they can be used to insulate and protect Senior Citizens from the influence of overbearing family members and friends.

Trusts can be extremely useful tools in estate planning because they provide enormous flexibility. I will take the time to help you understand all the relevant legal issues concerning your unique situation and the inherent advantages and disadvantages involved with trusts.

I help clients with the following types of trusts:

  • Living Trust Plus™, to protect your assets from probate, PLUS the financial devastation of lawsuits and divorce PLUS the catastrophic expenses of nursing home long-term care
  • Special Needs and Special Benefits Trusts
  • Life Insurance Trusts
  • Marital Deduction and Credit Shelter or Bypass Trusts
  • Education trusts
  • Pet Trusts
  • Other Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts

Contact an Experienced Lawyer

Call my office today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss wills and trusts. I work from a home office in Kinnelon and also offer appointments at my office in Riverdale for your convenience. I am available during regular business hours and by appointment at other times. Both offices are handicap accessible.

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