Katz & Dougherty Law Office
Katz & Dougherty Law Office

Estate Planning

What is estate planning all about?

Estate planning starts when you think about who you want to leave your worldly possessions to when you pass on. Most people think about it off and on throughout their lives until they reach a point to actually do something about it. That normally means asking friends for a recommendation for a lawyer who does Wills. However, estate planning can and should include college tuition and retirement plans, health care planning such as living wills and health directives and long-term care insurance, and management/asset control documents such as powers of attorney and a business succession plan. 

What happens if I don’t have a Will at the time of my death?

If you die without a Will your property may be divided up in such a way that is contrary to your wishes. The law makes the assumption that you would want your property left to your closest relatives such as your spouse and/or children. However, it may not be the people that you feel need your help the most, nor necessarily all the people that you would like to remember. Moreover, without a Will anyone who tries to administrator your estate will be required to post a bond and those insurance premiums will be paid out of your estate. During your initial consultation, we will discuss with you how you would like your estate to be divided up amongst your beneficiaries and the tax implications of your decisions. 

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of submitting the decedent’s Will, death certificate and other supporting documentation to the County Surrogate’s Office in order for an Executor to be appointed as the official agent of the estate to manage its assets, liabilities, tax obligations, keep an accurate accounting and to distribute the assets of estate to the beneficiaries. 

When should I update my estate documents?

You should update your estate documents whenever there is a change in your circumstances such as getting married, divorced, having a child, or if your named executor, trustee or guardian can no longer serve in that capacity. 

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a set of instructions regarding your medical decisions when you can no longer make them for yourself. You can choose what course treatment you would like i.e. life support. Your living will should also contain a health care proxy naming a personal representative to make your health care decisions when you can no longer do so along with granting them the authority to have access to your medical and health insurance records as they are confidential and protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ( HIPAA).

What is a power of attorney?

A “power of attorney” is a document , but it is actually a power you give to someone to act in your place. It is like when the Sheriff pins a badge on a deputy and swears him in. It gives that other person the right to act in the name of the Sheriff---a power of law enforcement. The word attorney is a fancy word for “agent”. The “power of attorney document” is what your agent presents (like the deputy’s badge on his vest) to the bank or the Division of Motor Vehicles when signing your name to one of their forms to one of their forms to deposit money or to transfer a registration. Powers of attorney come in many different strengths. There are very limited ones, and very broad ones. Your attorney-at-law is trained to ask you how much power you want your “agent” to have over your property, assets, banking and insurance. 

Special Estate Planning Issues

Commercial real estate, rental properties, property owned out of state, businesses, children from a previous marriage and civil-union couples. 



Katz & Dougherty

4020 Quakerbridge Rd

Lawrenceville NJ 08619


Phone: (609) 587-1199

Fax: (609) 587-0550


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