For many people, the best time to start creating an estate plan is when they reach the age of majority. In New Jersey, that is when you turn 18. At this point, only those who have your permission can make medical, financial and other decisions on your behalf.
A will or trust is the foundation of your estate plan
A will enables you to dictate what happens to your assets after you pass away. It also allows you to appoint a guardian for any minor children who you may leave behind. However, one of the downsides to this type of document is that it doesn’t take effect until after you die.
If you want something that takes effect immediately, a trust may be preferable to a will. Creating a trust may also be ideal from an estate planning perspective because assets owned by the trust are no longer part of your estate. Therefore, they will likely be exempt from probate.
Do you need medical or financial agents?
A medical agent appointed by you under a power of attorney can serve as your voice if you are unable to communicate directly with a doctor or other medical personnel. Similarly, a financial agent named in a power of attorney can pay bills, liquidate assets or take other steps to effectively manage your money if you become incapacitated.
An estate plan may be established at any time after you reach the age of majority. However, it must be done while you are of sound mind, and plan documents must be structured in accordance with state law. You are encouraged to review your plan regularly to ensure that it still meets your needs.