April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Have We Been Putting Off Doing Something Very Important? An Open Letter to the Community

Dear fellow community members:

I have worked as a practicing attorney in New York and New Jersey for nearly 20 years and have handled a broad range of matters including traffic violations, criminal defense, expungements, legal name changes and personal injury. If you live in Passaic/Clifton or its environs there’s a good chance you’ve hired my firm for a traffic ticket or other legal matter and/or encountered me at shul or other community institution. Our service to the community has b’H extended to having had the zechus to support virtually every local mosad in one way, shape or form. Assisting our local community members with a range of legal needs over the years has put us in contact with literally thousands of individuals from all walks of life.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our families and made us realize how quickly life can change. In addition to people having been taken from this earth before their expected time r’l, there were many individuals who found themselves in complex medical situations, being put on respirators and unable to convey to loved ones and hospital staff their medical wishes and make sure they were carried out in accordance with their personal preferences and halacha. I’d been on the receiving end of panicked calls—“Where can I find a health care proxy form online? My family member is going into the hospital and I need it right now.” I also thought about how some years ago there was a big push to purchase life insurance, especially after a few high-profile cases of younger people who died without life insurance and funds needed to be raised to provide basic support for their families.

This led me to wonder whether the overall statistic that nearly two-thirds of Americans lack an estate plan applies within our community as well. After all, we all invest significant time and energy to make sure our families are provided for, our mortgages and tuition bills are paid, etc. Could it be that the average “Yossi” hasn’t taken the responsible step of making sure their affairs are in order in the event that he gets into a complicated medical situation or passes away suddenly?

I started taking an informal survey. I’d meet people in shul, at the supermarket and at the Yiddle League ball field. Indeed, well over two-thirds of the people I polled said they didn’t have an estate plan. The funny thing is, most of those people also admitted that it was something they knew they had to do, but just hadn’t done it yet. I’d say the top reasons most people don’t make an estate plan are: 1) the time, 2) the expense, 3) lack of awareness of the importance of having the documents in place, and 4) not wanting to face their own mortality. While we may not be able to address the fourth point, I think that the others can be adequately addressed.

To address the first two points, I went about building a convenient client- and tech-driven legal process (as we have with our other departments) so that we can offer these services in a convenient and cost-effective manner. To the third point, I decided to pen a series of articles outlining the critical need to make an estate plan both from a legal, practical and halachic standpoint. I hope you will join me on this educational journey. I’d like to try and remove my personal bias (to the extent possible) with the following mandate: While our firm would love to help you make an estate plan, my overarching objective is to encourage you and your friends and family to make an estate plan, whether you end up using our services or not.

My very best wishes for a k’tiva v’chatima tova. May we all be inscribed in the book of life and health in the coming year and beyond.

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