The focus of my practice is assisting clients with their estate planning needs. This normally includes a Will, Power Of Attorney and some form of Health Care planning.
A will is a written document that describes how a person wishes his property to be distributed when he dies. The person making the will, the testator or testatrix, names a Personal Representative (prior to 2005 called Executor of Executrix) to carry out these wishes. The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, present at the same time. The final section of the will should include an affidavit that makes it self-proving.
New Jersey law now allows a person to keep a hand-written list of tangible personal property to be distributed to specific beneficiaries. It can be created after the will is signed and it can be modified at any time without the assistance of a lawyer. The will, however, must reference the list to be effective.
The role of the Personal Representative is to collect the assets of the person that has passed away, pay any valid debts and then distribute the remainder to the beneficiaries named in the will according to the directions contained in the will. The process starts when the Personal Representative offers the will for probate (to prove). This is done by taking the will and a copy of the death certificate to the Surrogate in the county where the deceased was domiciled. If all is in order, the Surrogate will issue a document called Letters Testamentary – essentially a Court order that tells the world the Personal Representative is empowered to manage and distribute the deceased person’s property.
Some of my clients are young married couples with minor children. They do not have a lot of property, but want to make sure they know who will raise their children if something happens to both of them. They do not want a judge to make that decision.
The will should be drafted keeping New Jersey and Federal Estate taxes in mind.
The purpose of a Power of Attorney is for one person, called the Principal, to give authority to another person, called the Attorney-in-Fact, to act on their behalf regarding their assets. The power can be very broad, called a general power, or very specific – you can only write checks against my account to pay my taxes. The power can be made durable, meaning it survives the incompetence of the Principal. If it is not made durable, the power does not survive the incompetence of the Principal. The power can be drafted to take effect immediately on signing. The vast majority of my clients choose the Living Will option.
Existing clients often ask if I can assist them in other areas and if I can, I do. Some examples….
- Adult adoption
- Legal name change
- Pre-nuptial agreements
- Negotiate franchise agreements
- Evict nonpaying tenants
- Form limited liability corporations
- Represent a creditor in Federal Bankruptcy Court
- Sue landlords for the return of security deposits
- Negotiate and draft Joint Development Agreements
- Negotiate and draft commercial leases
- Settle insurance claims
- DWI defense – unfortunately
I have helped several clients with very specific legal issues when they could not afford my normal fee and will continue to do so.
I have been asked by Monmouth County Superior Court – Family Division to represent clients who have been accused of violating either Temporary or Final Restraining Orders.
I have volunteered to do pro bono legal work with Sea Bright Rising for Sea Bright residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy. I now have 14 new friends.