A significant majority of people who are in their thirties and forties are going through life without any estate planning documents, and in many cases, they are putting immediate family members at risk.
It would be logical to assume that people start to take estate planning more seriously as they get older, and this is true to some extent. However, a rather shocking statistic was uncovered recently when a study was conducted. Only 49 percent of American adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are prepared from an estate planning perspective.
Many people go through life failing to prepare for this inevitable event because they assume that the government has everything under control. The idea is that your spouse will get everything if you are married and you die without an estate plan.
After that, there is the illusion that the surviving spouse will take care of the rest of the family appropriately, and if he or she doesn’t act, there are really no worries. The state will always make sure that everything turns out all right.
In reality, everything about this is untrue except for the fact that the state would be involved if you pass away without a last will or trust. Under these circumstances, the condition of intestacy would be the result, and the Surrogate’s Court would sort things out using the intestate succession laws of the state of New Jersey.
First of all, final debts would be paid out of assets that comprise the estate. Ultimately, these intestate succession laws would be used to determine the way that the assets would be distributed.
There are some scenarios that would allow for the surviving spouse to inherit the entirety of the property that his or her deceased spouse was leaving behind under the intestate succession laws. If you died with a surviving spouse but no parents or children living, your spouse would inherit all of your property.
Your spouse would also inherit all of your property if you had surviving children from that spouse, and you and your spouse had no other children.
However, things are different if you had children from your surviving spouse and your surviving spouse also had children from another relationship. Under these circumstances, your spouse would inherit the first 25 percent of your personal property (With a minimum of $50,000, and a maximum of $200,000), and 50 percent of the rest. Your own children would inherit the remainder.
If you pass away with a surviving spouse and no children from that spouse, and you have descendants from another relationship or relationships, the same distributions would take place. The surviving spouse would get the first 25 percent and half of the remainder, and your children would inherit the rest.
Your spouse would not inherit everything if you were to pass away with a surviving spouse and parents still living. Your spouse would get the first one fourth of the intestate property (With a minimum of $50,000, and a maximum of $200,000) and 75 percent of the rest. Your parents would inherit the remainder under intestate succession laws.
As you can see from this brief examination of the laws, things are not necessarily going to take care of themselves if you die intestate. We looked at some very simple circumstances, but some situations are much more complex when there are multiple marriages and children from multiple different relationships on both sides.
There is no logical reason to go through life without a will or trust. If you sit down and discuss your situation with a licensed estate planning lawyer, your attorney will get to know you. He or she will gain an understanding of your family dynamic, your financial situation, and your personal objectives.
Your lawyer will answer all of your questions, and the appropriate recommendations will be made. Ultimately, you can use a will or trust to state your final wishes, and you can go forward with the knowledge that everyone that you love will be properly provided for after you are gone.
Our Firm Can Help
If you are convinced that action is required, our firm would be glad to help you devise a plan that is perfect for you and your family. We pride ourselves on our personal commitment to people in the greater Central New Jersey area, and over the years we have helped countless families achieve their legacy planning goals.
We offer no obligation consultations, and you can call us at (908) 222-8803 or send us a message through our contact page to set up an appointment that fits into your schedule.