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Category Archives: wills

Estate Planning for Your Children

Estate Planning for Your Children’s Financial Security

If you have children, especially minors and/or children with a disability, you should consider how your current estate plan would effect your children in the event that you pass away or become incapacitated and unable to manage your affairs. While planning for your children is part of a proper estate plan, you should also consider whether your estate planning documents, including, a Last Will and Testament, General Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will, are up to date and accurately reflect your current circumstances and objectives. In a Last Will and Testament, for instance, you may nominate a Legal Guardian for your minor children or appoint a custodian for assets passing to minor children. Each decision is a step toward a fully articulated estate plan, which takes time and thought.

The following are a few ideas and estate planning tools to consider when planning for your children’s financial security. This list is not fully inclusive of all options available, but instead, are some of the many options available to parents planning for their children. Should you have any questions regarding your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Puff & Cockerill LLC.

Trust Agreement

A trust is a common way for managing and protecting your children’s assets. A trust can be tailored and structured in many ways to accommodate your specific intentions. Once you discuss with an estate planning attorney your circumstances, finances and goals for the trust, you will also have to select a trustee. A trustee should be an individual who you have confidence in to manage and make advisable decision regarding the trust assets. Assets held in a trust may be limited to specific purposes, such as education, health, maintenance, or they can be more freely distributed at the discretion of the trustee. Again, trusts are flexible to accommodate your circumstances and goals. Given the numerous options available, it is highly advisable that you speak with an estate planning attorney to understand the nuances that a trust can provide in planning for your children’s future.

Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)

New Jersey has Uniform Transfers to Minors laws which establish restrictions on how assets may be distributed to minors. Depending on your circumstances, the UTMA may be an appropriate way to make gifts to a minor and allow the custodian of the account to collect, manage, and invest the property on behalf of the minor or use the property for the minor’s benefit. As the laws regarding the UTMA are stringent, it is important to discuss with an estate planning attorney.

Children with Special Needs

If you have a child with a disability, proper planning for your children and their future is particularly important. Without a proper estate plan in place, you may jeopardize your child’s eligibility for government benefits, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD). A special needs trust is designed to hold assets for an individual with a physical or mental disability while preserving personal eligibility for benefits. Special needs trusts are subject to stringent legal requirements in order to maintain eligibility, therefore, it is highly advisable that you speak with an experienced attorney.

Please contact our office at 856-845-0011 or at to discuss your estate plan with one of our estate planning attorneys. We will continue to be available for our clients and new clients. We hope all of you remain safe and healthy.

Are Your Estate Planning Documents in Order

Are Your Estate Planning Documents in Order for 2020?

Don’t neglect preparation of your estate planning documents. A new year means another “New Years Resolution.” As individuals and family’s plan for a new years resolution, unfortunately, they neglect estate planning documents in their thought process. As we enter 2020, the upcoming holidays provide a great time to reflect on their year and plan for their future. Adding your estate planning documents to your resolutions is important for numerous reasons.

It is important to consider what you would like to happen with your assets and property after your death, how you want them to be distributed, and to whom.

If you die without a will, your estate will pass by the intestacy laws of the State of New Jersey, which may lead to unintended consequences. For instance, if you wish to leave a gift of property or assets to a friend, sibling, or charity, these assets may not reach their intended recipient under the intestacy laws unless you have a Last Will and Testament.

If you have children that are minors or have special needs and you would like to protect and provide financial assistance to them, proper planning should be a priority. A trust for a minor and/or a Special Needs Trust (commonly referred to as a Supplemental Needs Trust) allow you to protect assets for the benefit of your child and/or individual with special needs. It is important to understand that if you have a special needs child, an inheritance not placed in trust may prevent them from qualifying for government assistance and benefits.

Estate Planning Documents Package

An estate plan package, which includes, (1) a Last Will and Testament, (2) Durable General Power of Attorney, (3) Medical Power of Attorney, and (4) Living Will, is an affordable start to creating your estate plan. Our office can also tailor estate planning documents packages to include more complex planning, such as trust agreements (minor trust, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trust, supplemental needs trusts, and charitable trusts, to name a few).

Estate Planning Documents Process

Our estate planning process involves several steps. We ask our clients to complete an Estate Planning Questionnaire and schedule an initial consultation to discuss your estate plan with one of our estate planning attorneys. Once an estate plan is discussed and decided, we will draft your estate planning documents and provide you the opportunity to review all drafts and meet with our attorneys to make any changes. Lastly, we will schedule a final meeting for you to sign your estate planning documents, with witnesses and a notary provided.

If you have any questions concerning an existing estate plan, wish to amend your estate plan or create a new estate plan, please contact our offices at 856-845-0011 or by email.

life insurance policy tips

Life Insurance Policy Tips

As we enter the New Year, it is important to review your life insurance policy (or policies) to ensure that your premiums are timely paid in full.  Following a recent New Jersey court decision, it is particularly important that you do not allow your life insurance policy to lapse for failure to pay your premium.  It is a reminder to us all that if your premium lapses after the reinstatement period and you pass away, your insurance provider is under no obligation to pay the policy’s benefits.

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In Nationwide Life Ins. v. Thompson, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that the life insurance provider had no obligation to pay the benefits on a lapsed life insurance policy after the policyholder failed to reinstate the policy’s premium prior to the reinstatement date.  After notice from the insurance company that reinstatement was due and the reinstatement grace period was set to expire, the policyholder failed to pay the premium in full.  The policyholder died two days after the grace period expired.  Despite the policyholder’s wife mailing a check for the lapsed premium after the policyholder’s death, the Appellate Division held that the life insurance policy had lapsed and no benefits were payable to the policyholder’s widow.

Life insurance policies are often an integral part of an individual’s estate plan. The purpose of having a life insurance policy is to provide a benefit to your designated beneficiaries in the event that you pass away. Life insurance policies are “non-probate” assets that will transfer on the death of the policyholder and under current law in New Jersey provide tax free transfers upon the death of the decedent (on estates under eleven million). The policyholder may also designate his or her estate as the named beneficiary, thus allowing the benefit to be distributed in accordance with the policyholder’s will. Either way, life insurance policies are a common and useful estate planning tool.

If you have a life insurance policy, the Nationwide case presents a helpful reminder that insurance policy premiums must be paid because they are time sensitive.  If premiums are not timely paid, the insurance company is under no obligation to pay the benefits to the policy’s beneficiaries.  Accordingly, the law firm of Puff & Cockerill reminds all individuals with an insurance policy to review their policy premium due dates to make sure payments are timely.

Message to Our Clients Amid Coronavirus OutbreakWe are open for business

Given the current circumstances associated with the coronavirus outbreak, we are providing an update of our operations. We are open for business.  To ensure the safety of our employees and clients, we have a skeleton crew of essential staff at our Woodbury Office, with the remaining attorneys and staff available for remote operations.

We remain available by phone and email as normal.  Our attorneys and staff working remotely have full access to our computer systems.  While we cannot, at this time, field personal meetings, we are available to discuss by phone and email.  Fortunately, Puff & Cockerill has a full access system to allow our attorneys and staff to work remotely to continue to assist our clients.

We stand ready to assist all of our clients and welcome any new clients to contact our office at 856-845-0011 or at  Our staff will field your call and direct you accordingly.

We will continue to address any changes to our state and local mandates amid the coronavirus outbreak.  Our thoughts are with everyone impacted and wish everyone health and safety.