Estate Planning and Probate
A Will is your statement of what happens with what you own when you die. It can be changed as many times as you want during your lifetime and should be reviewed periodically as circumstances in your life change.
Wills must meet several tests to be valid:
- It must be validly executed
- It must not be signed under duress (pressure from someone)
- You must have capacity to make a Will
Wills are validly executed when they are witnessed and notarized. New Jersey law has been relaxed to allow for some wills that have not been notarized to be considered valid, but Guston & Guston believes that all Wills should be executed at our office with a level of formality to protect our clients and their families.
Wills are valid when the maker of a Will is not under undue influence or pressure from someone to make the Will or make a specific direction in a Will. The lawyers at Guston & Guston will work with you to protect you and your wishes.
You must have capacity to make a Will. Generally, this means you must have the ability to identify your family and those close to you and to identify your assets. Sometimes, age or physical or mental illness interferes with the basic ability to make a Will. The lawyers at Guston & Guston are sensitive to our client’s needs and circumstances and try to identify issues that might interfere with the making of a valid Will. We always strive to carefully evaluate each client’s situation and find solutions where we can.
Wills can also:
- Appoint Guardians of minor children
- Create trusts for children or disabled adults
- Create restricted gifts
- Create charitable gifts
- Direct gifts of certain specific items
- Gift rights to royalties or other future rights
Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney gives the authority to another person to act for you if you become disabled or cannot be present to perform a significant act. Powers of Attorney can often prevent the need for the appointment of a guardian if someone becomes disabled. Powers of Attorney can take effect immediately upon signing, or can “spring” into effect upon a disability. Powers are considered “durable” when they remain in effect even after you become disabled.
Powers of Attorney can be used by your agent to assist you in:
- Conducting banking transactions
- Conducting real estate transactions
- Authorizing medical treatment
- Applying for insurance and government benefits
- Accessing online records and accounts
- Collecting debts owed to you
- Paying your bills
- Communicating with doctors, lawyers and other professionals
State laws govern what Powers of Attorney look like, what powers you can grant and how the documents need to be executed. The attorneys at Guston & Guston can review your needs and make sure you have a Power of Attorney that meets your needs.
Advance Directives/Living Wills
Everyone has the fundamental right to determine what medical treatment they will receive at the end of their life. This includes receiving no medical treatment or ending treatment at a certain time. An Advance Directive or Living Will is a written statement that gives your statement of what your wishes are for end of life care and appoints a Medical Representative to carry out those directions when you can no longer communicate. Without this document, doctors and hospitals may not be able to carry out your wishes and you may receive treatment you may have wished to refuse. The lawyers at Guston & Guston will carefully review all of your options for an Advance Directive and assist you in making your wishes known.
You have the ability to give an enforceable direction for your burial, cremation or funeral. The attorneys at Guston & Guston will work with you to assure that your directions are clearly and properly stated.
You also have the right to pre-pay funeral expenses and make choices for your funeral directly with a funeral home of your choice. These pre-paid plans are regulated and protected under state law and allowable as deductible expenses for Medicaid planning. The elder planning and estate planning attorneys at Guston & Guston can assist in reviewing your pre-paid funeral contracts.
Trusts are documents that control the management of money or other assets. Trusts can be used for:
- Tax planning
- Protecting funds for children
- Protecting funds for disabled people
- Providing for multiple generations of a family
- Providing for a second spouse while preserving assets for children
- Providing for pets
- Planning for long term medical care needs
- Providing protections against creditors
Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable, depending on the needs and purpose of the trust.
The elder planning and estate planning attorneys at Guston & Guston have experience in drafting many different types of trusts and can assist you in deciding if a trust should be included in your estate or elder plan.
Estate and Inheritance Tax Planning
Estate and Inheritances taxes may be a fact of life, but they don’t have to be complicated – let the estate planning attorneys at Guston & Guston review your estate and inheritance tax issues and offer solutions to any taxation issues that may be present.
Considering starting a gifting plan for your children, grandchildren or a charity you support? Start with the estate planning attorneys at Guston & Guston. We can help with creative solutions to gifting plans that will meet your needs and comply with current tax laws.
Probate and Estate Administration
At one of the most stressful and saddest of times, the attorneys at Guston & Guston stand ready to help with the probate of a will and the administration of your loved one’s estate.
Probate is the process of submitting a will to a county surrogate so that you can be appointed as an Executor, or the Estate’s Representative. If there is no will, the process is called an application for Administration and you will be appointed as Administrator. Either way, the Executor or Administrator is the person authorized to conduct business on behalf of the Estate, to collect the assets, pay the debts and make distribution to the heirs or beneficiaries.
We will be at your side for the entire process, doing as much as you need us to do – whether communicating with banks or investment firms, talking to creditors or overseeing a real estate closing, Guston & Guston can handle all phases of an estate administration with sensitivity and compassion.
Litigation can arise over an estate in many ways. Family members may disagree over who should serve as an administrator. There may be disputes over the distribution or sale of property. The validity of a Will or actions taken by someone under a Power of Attorney may be in question. The attorneys at Guston & Guston have years of experience litigating estate disputes. Let us assess your case to see whether we can assist in helping to resolve an estate litigation matter.