The will is the centerpiece of estate planning. It provides for the legal transfer of assets after an individual's death, names an individual or entity to settle the probate estate, names a trustee to administer any testamentary trust established therein, and appoints a guardian for any minor or disabled children. However, it is not the only estate planning document nor does it dispose of all assets.
There are three basic estate planning documents: (1) a will; (2) an advance directive, and (3) a power of attorney. Due to the continued increase in the elderly population, as well as the commensurate growth in medical costs, including nursing home costs, it is imperative to prepare all three documents for clients. Simply put, a will may have little value if an individual's estate is dissipated by such costs. A properly prepared advance directive and power of attorney can minimize the severity of these costs.
Moreover, it is imperative to recognize that a will does not necessarily dispose of the entirety of an individual's estate. It only disposes of the probate estate, which primarily consists of assets owned by an individual in sole name. Assets which are owned with a right of survivorship or beneficiary designation pass outside of a will. Thus, an attorney must evaluate the manner in which assets are held to ensure that the testamentary intentions of the client are met.
It is my goal to give sound legal advice to all my clients' and help each client obtain the right estate plan.
DISCLAIMER: Answers from my blog are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. My blog is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. I am not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in New Jersey.