Becoming a mom has taught me a few valuable life lessons I was only able to embrace once I had a child. While my husband and I prepared for our baby by taking classes on everything from Lamaze to perfecting the swaddle, we weren’t prepared on more serious topics like a family Will, life insurance, and college savings. We put off those adult decisions because let’s face it, it’s a bit overwhelming and stressful and requires a lot of time-consuming research—something we, as new parents, were really short on.
We Found An Incredible Estate Lawyer in NJ—And, I’m So Glad We Did
Just before my daughter’s 6-month birthday, I finally felt ready to tackle all of this adulting. We went through the hurdles to sign up for life insurance, we created a nest egg to start saving for college, and we made an appointment with one of the top estate lawyers and elder care attorneys in NJ, Adam Rubin, of Levine, Furman & Rubin, LLC in East Brunswick, to discuss a Will. For us, and maybe other parents, discussing a Will was super difficult and something we didn’t want to deal with. After all, I was still trying to figure out this new mom life and bod, nursing my daughter, working FT, and everything else I do daily to keep us all alive—to think about my death, meant I had to dig really deep to make that call. And looking back, now that I’ve been through it, I’m so glad I did it. I had a lot of questions, and Adam was happy to patiently answer all of them for me. If you’re thinking about meeting with an estate lawyer in NJ (or anywhere), here’s what you need to know to feel prepared.
Why do you think people are hesitant about calling an estate planning lawyer to create a Will?
It comes from being overwhelmed by making a very emotional decision. This process requires a lot of thought on tough decisions like who to pick as your child’s guardian, how to map out a plan for your child’s inheritance should you pass away, and not knowing who can help you make these decisions. This can lead people to procrastinate on making that first phone call. When you work with an estate lawyer, they will protect your kids and shape the legacy you want to leave for your children. When you finish, you’ll be happy you did it and have peace of mind knowing if something happens, your family will be okay.
What happens if I don’t prepare a Will or Revocable Living Trust?
If you die with a child under the age of maturity (18) without a Will or Living Trust, the decision over the custody of your children and the terms of their inheritance will be decided by the court and not you. Think of it this way—estate planning is a part of parenting. It can play a tremendous role in shaping the adults our children become.
There are so many decisions to make on who should be a guardian, executor, or trustee. How do I choose these?
This question is one of the most asked by my clients. I often advise my clients to pick someone who will raise your children with the same values you have. You also want your guardian to have experience with children, but not be overwhelmed if they already have several children of their own. A big priority should also be making sure your children’s lifestyles are disrupted as minimal as possible. If a guardian is needed, this will be a traumatic experience for your children. So if you can keep the children as close to family and friends as possible, that would be ideal. The trustee will manage your child’s inheritance, so you may want to pick a different person to work with the guardian. This can allow for a system of checks and balances.
Can I update my choices over the years?
Absolutely. So many people name their parents as guardians at first, and then as their parents get older, they usually update their selection. You may develop a deeper connection with a family friend or discover one of your siblings to be a better fit as a guardian for your children. I recommend reviewing your plan once a year to make sure it is still consistent with your wishes.
How do I decide the terms for what my kids are getting?
The goal of picking the terms is to help your kids, not hurt them. For instance, if you pass away before your kids are grown, you want to make sure they are using the money for education, and that they live comfortably, but not spend irresponsibly. With inheritance, we generally advise that a child to have full access to their inheritance around age 30 because they will be established and have the maturity to deal with an inheritance. If your kids are young now, I know it’s hard to imagine what they will be like later on, so holding an inheritance back until a certain age will help them become the responsible adults we want our kids to be.
Why can’t I do a DIY Will online?
While it seems like an obvious shortcut, it’s not—online documents are often too generic, and more importantly, there’s no one you can meet with. Estate planning for families should not be a snap decision. Having an attorney specializing in estate planning in New Jersey will ensure you make more thoughtful and informed decisions. Some couples also have differing views on who they want to select as a guardian and need to speak to someone to come to an agreement. A professional will guide you through all the options and make recommendations for the right plan for your family.
What’s the difference between a Will and a Revocable Living Trust?
A Will determines the distribution of assets, but it is a public document. A Revocable Living Trust protects your assets and is private so that no one will know the details of the inheritance you leave for your children and can often self-modify to protect your kids. Also, a Revocable Living Trust sometimes has the ability to prepare for the unforeseen, which is a daily occurrence with kids. Contrary to the stereotypes of trusts, you do not have to be a millionaire to have a trust.
When is the right time to draw up a Will?
At a minimum, you need an estate plan as soon as you have kids—you owe it to yourself and them because nothing in life goes as planned. The unexpected is the only thing we can count on, so you need to prepare for it the best you can, and an estate lawyer can guarantee that your kids are protected.
This post is sponsored by Levine, Furman & Rubin LLC, who provide peace of mind to all NJ families.
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