What Happens Without a Will?

I’ll let you in on a little secret… I have a lot of stuff. I bet you probably do too, right? It can be kind of scary trying to figure out what will happen to it after you’re gone. You might be even more scared if you don’t yet have a will or just simply don’t want to make one. In either case, I have some information that you just might find helpful, and then I can feel good about myself again. So here we go!

What To Do if There is No Will?

In the great state of New Jersey, if you have no idea what to do and you have no will, the law will come to bat for you and decide how to divide up all those things you left behind. For now, though, let’s just look at the stuff that’s left in your name alone. There are seven ways this can go, and they are as follows:

  • If you die and leave behind your spouse and a child (from that same marriage), your spouse gets EVERYTHING. (This does not include stepchildren or children from a previous marriage).
  • If you die and leave behind a spouse and child from a previous marriage, that spouse gets 25% of your estate, but no less than $50,000 or more than $200,000, plus one-half of any balance on the estate. Your kids get that balance equally, while grandchildren take the share of the deceased parent.
  • Say you die and leave behind a spouse, child(ren), and a stepchild or children, the spouse gets the first 25%. No less than $50,000 or more than $200,000, plus three-fourths of any estate balance. Again, children divide it equally and grandchildren take the share of the deceased parent.
  • If you die and have a spouse but no children, but you have your parents, the deal is the same as before, only this time your parents split the balance of the estate equally between themselves.
  • If you die and you have a child or children but no spouse, your kids inherit equally, while grandchildren will inherit the share of the deceased parent.
  • If you die and you don’t have any of those, but you have parents, your parents get it all. If you don’t have parents, your siblings will inherit equally. For nieces and nephews, it is the same as above: they inherit what their parents left behind.
  • Finally, when no immediate family is in the picture, your property can go to all those to whom you are distantly related to (like grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). Or, it can even be taken by the State if all else fails.

Contact Scott Counsel Today

So here’s a quick glimpse for you at what happens to your things after you’re gone. New Jersey estate planning attorney Justin Scott is quick to assure us. “We know you have a lot of memories and all those things mean a lot to you,” he says, “so please rest assured that we will do everything we can to make sure those precious memories are very well taken care of. Contact New Jersey Estate Planning attorney, Justin Scott, to get started on your will.

A Simple Will: Just the Basics, Please

So, most people have heard of a will. It’s a good idea to have one because if you don’t, the state decides who gets your belongings and, in some cases, who raises any children you leave behind. If the thought of that scares you as much as it does me, you should probably make a will. While this may appear to be a nearly impossible task, it does not have to be. In fact, there is such a thing as a basic will, and our New Jersey estate planning attorney will explain further.

You Can Write Your Basic Will Yourself

If all you want or need is a basic will, you can actually write it up yourself, without any legal help, using a do-it-yourself book or software. Fear not, making a will this way ensures that it’s just as legally binding as if you had a professional help you with it.

With a basic will, you can make a binding document that does the following:

  • Leaves your property to the people and organizations of your choice
  • Names a guardian to care for any minor children you have in case you can’t
  • Names someone to manage any property you leave to any minor children (either your own or someone else’s) and finally
  • Names your personal representative, who makes sure that the contents of your will are carried out.

When Do You Need a basic Will in New Jersey?

In general, if you’re under 50 and don’t expect to leave a lot of valuable assets behind to estate taxes, you should be able to get by with just a basic will. However, as you get older and have more valuable possessions, it may be a good idea to look into something better.

Can A Basic Will Avoid Probate? 

Unfortunately, there is no way to answer that question. If you leave anything more than a small amount of property in your will, probate proceedings will almost certainly be initiated. It’s no secret that probate is a time-consuming and expensive process, lasting anywhere from six months to a year and costing up to 3-5 % in lawyer and court fees. Beneficiaries will also receive little to nothing until the process is completed.

The good news is that if you only need a basic will, you don’t need to worry about probate right now. If you’re young, in good shape, and don’t have a lot of money, your main priority should be to plan for the unlikely event that you die suddenly and unexpectedly. Aside from that, you almost certainly have enough time later to plan for all of these other things.

Our New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney is Here to Help

So concludes our brief examination of a basic will. We hope this helps to shed some light on a situation that you may not have realized could apply to you. Finally, consider this quote from New Jersey estate planning attorney Justin Scott.

“Anything dealing with legal matters can be confusing and costly, so it’s good to let people know there is something they can draw up themselves, with the help of books or software, and make sure that the important things in their lives are taken care of without having to go through the stress and hassle of having to shell out a lot of money to hire a professional.”