Life is uncertain. You can be prepared.
Last Will and Testaments
A properly drafted and executed Will provides legally binding instructions for the individual who will execute your Will (the “Executor”) after you pass on. The Will names an Executor and, ideally, one or more alternative Executors.
Custody of minor age 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 will happen with your children in case of the death of both parents.
If you die without a Will in New Jersey, your property will be determined by Statute. If you wish to avoid this, you need to have a legal Will.
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.
A General Power of Attorney can allow your representative (“Agent”) powers to handle a broad range of your affairs. They can handle as much, or as little, of your affairs as you designate. For example, your Agent may be able to make decisions about your real estate and banking transactions, but not be given access to your medical records. It’s up to you.
You do not need to be incapacitated for a Power of Attorney to become effective. A properly drafted “Durable” Power of Attorney can be written to grant an individual the power to make decisions on your behalf, even if you are incapacitated. Another option is a “Springing” Power of Attorney, which can be written to come into effect only after certain conditions are met, for example, when you become incapacitated. These types of Powers of Attorney are especially useful for individuals in avoiding potentially costly legal proceedings for Guardianship petitions.
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 your medical care and is guided by your Living Will and possibly personal conversations with you. This person is empowered under New Jersey law to execute your wishes, even if your health care professionals disagree.
There are few things as important as the legal documents that determine what will happen if you become incapacitated or after you pass on. If you have any questions about simple wills, powers of attorney, living wills, or any areas of family law, please feel free to call us for a legal consult. We will provide you with individualized legal counsel with one of our family lawyers. With our help, you can be secure in knowing that your wishes will be taken care of after you are gone.
Keith Family Law is a full service family law practice in Westfield, New Jersey that serves clients from Union County, Essex County, Hudson County, Morris County, Hunterdon County, Somerset County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Warren County.