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Last Wills and Testaments
Why should you have a Last Will and Testament? What would happen if you were to pass away without one?
In New Jersey, what happens to your property is determined by Statute if you die without a Will. If you wish for something different to happen, you must execute a Will. A properly drafted and executed Will provides legally binding instructions for the individual who will execute your Will (the “Executor”). The Will names an Executor and, ideally, one or more alternative Executors.
Custody of minor children generally transfers to the surviving parent upon the death of a parent by operation of law. However, if both parents pass away, either simultaneously or in succession, a Last Will and Testament allows you to name a Guardian for your children. Naming a Guardian in your Will carries great weight with the Court when it makes its determination as to what happens with your children in case of the death of both parents.
General Powers of Attorney
New Jersey statute provides that you may designate someone — in advance — to legally “stand in your shoes” and handle your affairs, whether or not you are incapacitated. You do not need to be incapacitated for a Power of Attorney to be effective, but a properly drafted Power of Attorney can be made to come into effect only when you become incapacitated (“springing”). A properly drafted Power of Attorney can also remain in effect even if you become incapacitated (“durable”). These types of Powers of Attorney are especially useful for individuals in avoiding potentially costly legal proceedings for Guardianship.
A General Power of Attorney can allow your representative (“Agent”) the legal ability to handle as much, or as little, of your affairs as you wish. For example, they may handle real estate transactions, banking transactions, or be given access to your medical records. They may be given broad powers to handle a broad range of affairs.
Health Care Directives (“Living Wills”)
If you become incapacitated and cannot direct your own health care, Health Care Directives, or “Living Wills,” allow you to provide advance instructions for your medical care when you cannot speak for yourself. In many cases, this involves your important legal right to refuse treatment.
Generally, these instructions are followed by health care providers and hospitals. However, to be certain that your instructions are carried out as you wish them, a Health Care Proxy is necessary. A Health Care Proxy (also known as a “Health Care Representative”) is an individual charged with executing your wishes as to medical care and is guided by your Living Will and, perhaps, personal conversations with you. This person is empowered under New Jersey law to execute your wishes, even if your health care professionals disagree. A Living Will with a Health Care Proxy names a Health Care Representative to carry out your wishes.
Keith Family Law is experienced in providing a broad range of documents to fit your particular needs. Contact us today if you need assistance.