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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

As we enter the new year, it’s a great time to add estate planning to your list of resolutions. Creating or updating your estate plan is a strategic move that allows you to protect your assets, reduce unnecessary expenses, and provide clarity for your loved ones. Here are some reasons why estate planning should be on your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2024.

More Control Over Asset Distribution

Estate planning allows you to direct how your assets get distributed after your death. This is particularly important if you have specific wishes, like donating to charity, keeping a family home within the family, or planning for the succession of a business. For example, if you want your business to continue under the leadership of a chosen successor, estate planning lets you set this up. 

Estate planning also allows you to make specific provisions for family members, like setting up educational trusts for grandchildren or ensuring care for special-needs relatives. Detailed planning allows for your assets to be distributed in ways that reflect your values and intentions.

Better Protection and Less Conflict for Your Beneficiaries

A thorough estate plan can protect your beneficiaries, safeguarding them from potential financial missteps and providing clear guidelines on managing their inheritances. This is especially critical if your beneficiaries are minors or struggle to make wise financial choices. For instance, by appointing a guardian or creating a trust, you can limit a beneficiary’s ability to use their inheritance until they are mature enough to manage it themselves. 

Moreover, an estate plan can significantly reduce family conflicts after your passing. Disputes often arise when there is ambiguity about a decedent’s wishes. By clearly outlining who gets what in your estate plan, you can prevent misunderstandings and ensure a smoother transition of your assets. This clarity can be particularly important in blended families, where the risk of conflict is often higher.

Reduced Tax Obligations and Other Expenses

Effective estate planning can drastically lower the tax burden on your estate, ensuring that more of your assets go to beneficiaries rather than to Uncle Sam. Tax avoidance can involve various strategies, like creating certain types of trusts, which you can structure to minimize estate and gift taxes. 

Beyond tax savings, good estate planning also reduces other costs associated with the transfer of assets. This includes legal fees, court costs, and other administrative expenses that can accumulate during the probate process. By organizing your estate to streamline or bypass probate, you can save your beneficiaries from these additional costs, providing them with a larger portion of your legacy.

Simplification or Avoidance of Probate

The probate process, in which a court oversees the distribution of a decedent’s assets, is often lengthy, public, and expensive. Through effective estate planning, you can greatly simplify this process or allow your beneficiaries to avoid it altogether. For instance, by setting up mechanisms like living trusts, you can transfer assets directly to your beneficiaries without the need for probate. This not only saves time but also maintains the privacy of your financial affairs. 

Probate can be financially and emotionally taxing for your loved ones. It often involves significant court and legal fees, and it takes time to complete, extending a period of uncertainty and grief. Planning your estate to minimize or eliminate the need for probate is a powerful way of looking out for your loved ones’ well-being after you’re gone.

More Clarity Regarding Your End-of-Life Preferences 

Estate planning is not just about what happens to your assets after you die. A comprehensive estate plan also includes documents outlining your preferences for important decisions about your end-of-life care. This can cover a range of highly personal decisions, from the medical treatments you do or don’t want to your wishes regarding life support. 

By clearly documenting these choices, you ensure that your loved ones and medical providers understand your healthcare preferences even if you cannot communicate them in the moment. This aspect of estate planning can be a great relief to your loved ones, as it prevents them from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf. Knowing they are following your wishes can give your family members considerable peace of mind during a challenging period. 

Contact a New York & New Jersey Estate Planning Lawyer Now

Ready to take the next step in creating or updating your estate plan? Merlino & Gonzalez is here to help. We provide comprehensive estate planning services and develop custom solutions tailored to your unique needs. Don’t let another year pass without a clear and effective estate plan. Contact us today to discuss your legacy in an initial consultation session.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.