Many people believe that dying without a will is not a big deal, especially if they do not have a significant amount of wealth or property. You may believe that without a will, your family will simply divide up your belongings and take care of your affairs on their own. However, under New Jersey law, your family will have little control over what happens to your property in this type of situation.
Estates must pass through a legal process called “probate” and, without a will to submit for probate, the court will decide how your property will be distributed in line with New Jersey’s intestacy laws. These laws determine which family members will get your property in which order. You may expect that your entire estate will simply be transferred to your spouse, though that is not always the case. For example, if there are children from a different relationship, the law can get quite complicated as to how your estate will be distributed. If you have no family that can be identified, your property will be claimed by the state of New Jersey.
Not all property goes through probate, however. Property that may be distributed outside of the probate court includes:
- Joint or payable on death accounts
- Real estate owned as a joint tenancy
- Retirement account or insurance policies with specified beneficiaries
- Property held in trust
Even if you believe that all of your property and assets fall into one of the above categories, it is still always wise to create a will. With proper will preparation, a will can contain a provision that addresses any residual property that you may not have considered. Therefore, none of your property would be distributed by the court and instead would be distributed in line with your wishes.
Call for a Consultation with a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney Today
Having a valid and enforceable last will and testament is essential to ensure your property is distributed in the manner you choose after you pass away. In addition, a will is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan and an experienced estate planning attorney can review many other options that may be appropriate in your situation, including trusts or power of attorney documents. At the The Law Office of John L. Schettino, we have helped many individuals develop thorough and beneficial estate plans, so please contact our office for a consultation today at 201-498-9768.