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Estate Planning and Administration: Wills & Trusts

Protect Your Estate with a Strongly Crafted Will or Trust

Wills and trusts are the foundation of most comprehensive estate plans. Wills, revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts all serve unique estate planning purposes, and there is an endless variety of combinations of these tools that can be used to address individuals’ unique estate planning goals.

At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., we provide comprehensive estate planning services that are custom-tailored to each client’s family and financial circumstances. We believe in working closely with our clients to find the best solutions for their individual needs. Whether a simple will is sufficient for the time being or you need a multi-faceted estate plan that minimizes tax liability and clearly defines the terms of your charitable giving, our attorneys will take the time to explain your options, understand your personal desires and develop an estate plan that is right for you.

Understanding the Key Provisions of Your Will

Wills can serve a number of different purposes. As a result, even if you use trusts for the majority of your estate planning (along with appropriate advance directives and powers of attorney), generally speaking, it will also be necessary to have a will. Wills can be used to:

  • Identify the beneficiaries who will be entitled to your assets after your death
  • Appoint a personal representative to manage your final affairs
  • Appoint a guardian for your minor children
  • Ensure that any assets not transferred into a trust will still be distributed according to your final wishes (commonly referred to as a “pour-over” will)

In New Jersey (as in other states), wills are subject to probate. Depending upon the complexity of a person’s estate, probate can be a costly, time-consuming and potentially contentious process. As a result, for many individuals, one of the goals of estate planning is to avoid probate to the greatest extent possible. This can largely be done through the use of revocable and irrevocable trusts.

Estate Planning with Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts

Revocable and irrevocable trusts avoid probate by transferring assets out of the grantor’s name and into the name of the trust. Revocable trusts (also commonly known as “living trusts”) provide the greatest amount of flexibility, and allow the grantor to retain access to trust assets during his or her lifetime. Irrevocable trusts offer less flexibility but can provide enhanced tax benefits, and there are a variety of types of irrevocable trusts designed to serve specific estate planning goals. These include:

  • Charitable lead trusts
  • Charitable remainder trusts
  • Generation-skipping trusts
  • Grantor-retained interest trusts
  • Life insurance trusts
  • Qualified personal residence trusts
  • Qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trusts
  • Special needs trusts (first-party and third-party)
  • Spendthrift trusts

The revocable trust is a commonly-used estate planning tool in New Jersey, as it offers a variety of advantages. These advantages apply under a broad range of circumstances, and most people will benefit from incorporating a revocable trust into their estate plan. Irrevocable trusts typically serve more-specific purposes; and, as such they won’t be right (or necessary) for everyone. However, if you have estate planning goals that can be achieved through the use of an irrevocable trust, then creating one of these trusts can offer a number of additional advantages that cannot be achieved through the use of other estate planning tools.

Is a revocable trust or irrevocable trust right for you? In order to answer this question, we need to know about your personal circumstances and your estate planning goals. Once you sit down with one of our attorneys to begin discussing your estate plan, your attorney will be able to provide customized recommendations that are tailored specifically to your personal goals and needs.

Why Is It Important to Have a Will and a Trust?

Oftentimes, wills and trusts are confused as alternatives to one another. However, for many people, it will make sense to incorporate both a will and a trust (or perhaps multiple trusts) into their estate plan. In fact, it has become fairly common practice for estate plans to be built on the foundation of a will combined with a revocable trust. The reason for this is that while wills and trusts can both serve the purpose of directing the distribution of a person’s assets after death, they each serve their own unique purposes as well.

For example, while a will can be used to designate a personal representative and a guardian for your minor children, a trust cannot. Additionally, to the extent that any assets fall outside of a trust, they will need to be distributed through probate, and this requires a will. If you do not have a will but you do have a probate estate (i.e. you own assets outside of a revocable or irrevocable trust), then your probate estate will be distributed according to New Jersey’s intestate succession laws. These laws specify that certain percentages of individuals’ assets should be distributed to specified family members, and they leave open the question of which assets should be distributed to whom.

On the trust side, the two biggest advantages of holding assets in a trust are: (i) the trust structure protects these assets during your lifetime, and (ii) placing assets in a trust keeps them out of probate. Incorporating a trust (or multiple trusts) into your estate plan also gives you greater control over how and when your assets are distributed; and, with respect to irrevocable trusts in particular, it can provide important tax benefits as well.

We Help New Jersey Residents Build Comprehensive and Custom-Tailored Estate Plans

When preparing an estate plan, it is critical to ensure that all documents work together and avoid inconsistencies that could lead to litigation. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., we focus on the details to ensure that our clients’ estate plans protect their interests while minimizing the risk of disputes during probate and trust administration. To learn more about how you can use a will and trust (or multiple trusts) to build a comprehensive estate plan, schedule a free estate planning consultation today

Schedule a Free Estate Planning Consultation

If you would like to speak with an attorney about your estate plan, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation. We have multiple office locations in New York and throughout New Jersey. To discuss your estate planning needs in confidence, please call 1-877-435-6371 or inquire online today.

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