Planning for the end of your life is not a subject anyone is truly comfortable talking about. Planning for long-term disability may be even less popular.

But estate planning is a must these days, and you likely will need help with designing a plan that protects your estate and those you love. Fiona Van Dyck, of Van Dyck Law in Princeton, focuses her practice exclusively on estate planning and elder care law, helping individuals and families formulate estate and long-term care plans. Fiona strives to make the process less intimidating. “We’re not your typical lawyer’s office,” Van Dyck says. “We get lots of hugs around here.”

Those hugs begin with understanding how nervous most people are when they enter an attorney’s office to set up plans for death and disability. “Our job is not only to prepare excellent legal documents but also to make people comfortable,” she says. “To make them feel they’re being taken care of well.”

Van Dyck and her team make sure that clients think pragmatically about the future. Statistically, there is an 85 percent chance that you will become disabled or incapacitated at some point in your life. And medical treatment can be incredibly expensive.

How expensive? Nursing home care in New Jersey right now costs, on average, $140,000 per year. Van Dyck and her team provide individual attention to families who need to figure out how to best design and implement estate plans and long-term care plans and to find someone to act and speak on behalf of the client who becomes incapacitated. This individualized attention is central to estate planning.

Part of this attention is the discussion of alternatives for long-term planning, such as long-term care insurance and more recent hybrid policies that allow unused long-term care funds to be reallocated as death benefits. The goal is to provide as many options as possible, Van Dyck says.

“Estate planning has to be personalized. It’s such a particular set of circumstance for each family,” she says. “Even within one family there are so many things to consider. What may be best for one child may not be for another. Sometimes our clients need to protect a child from himself.”

Ultimately, though it is no one’s favorite topic, the peace of mind that comes with estate planning is worth it. And not just for those who are planning for their own end-of-life issues. “When you do estate planning, you’re doing it for the people you’re leaving behind,” Van Dyck says.

Van Dyck Law, 707 State Road, Suite 102, Princeton. 609-580-1044,

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