06 Aug

In the absence of a will, New Jersey has a statute (law) that will dictate who receives your assets.  The primary purpose of a will is to set forth who you wish to receive your assets.  The will can also contain a trust in the event you die and have children.  If young children are involved (under age 18) you can appoint who will become their guardian in the event both parents die.  You also can appoint the person who will be the trustee to handle the assets until the children reach a certain age.  

In my opinion, more important is having a Power of Attorney.  The Power of Attorney allows someone you appoint as your Attorney-in-Fact or Agent to perform any task that you could perform.  (A Limited Power of Attorney can allow someone to do specific tasks and not be able to perform all tasks for you)  This document only functions while a person is alive,  It is also revocable at anytime.  The most important function of having a Power of Attorney is allowing someone to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated.    I have had many clients come to me with a spouse or child who became incapacitated as a result of an injury.  Without a Power of Attorney, the only alternative is to apply for a guardianship which is time consuming and costly.  

A General and Durable Power of Attorney allows the appointed person to perform ANY action.  It is important to only appoint a very trusted person.  I normally advise spouses to appoint each other.  For elderly clients it is important to appoint a child or other person as an alternate Attorney-in-Fact and Agent.

A third document that should be considered is an Advance Directive (Living Will)  This document allows you to set forth your wishes in the event your physicians opine that you have a severe and incurable or irreversible illness, disease or condition, which in the opinion of your attending physician is a terminal condition, or you become permanently unconscious, and either such determination is confirmed by a second physician.  You appoint someone to authorize the physicians to cease life sustaining procedures.  Important is that the appointed person has the authority, but not the obligation to make the decisions.  

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