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.

Why Do You Need A Living Trust And A Will?

Some things in life just go well together: Cereal and milk, peanut butter and jelly, movies and popcorn. But there’s another couple of things that go well together too—living trusts and wills. Now, if you know even a smidge about living trusts and wills, you might think that you would be just fine without a trust if you’ve already got a will—since they’re basically kind of the same thing. The truth is, however, that it’s a good idea indeed to have both if you don’t already.

“But why?” I hear you screaming at your computer screen. “Why do I actually need both?”

Living Trusts Never Include Every Single Thing You Own

The biggest reason why it’s important to have a will is that a living trust only covers all the stuff you’ve listed, in writing, in the trust. And almost no one transfers every single thing they own to the trust. I mean, I guess you could try, but if you’re like me, you have a lot of stuff. Doesn’t it just seem a lot simpler to transfer some of it and not all of it?

Even if you did somehow manage to get all that stuff of yours into a trust, there’s always a chance that you’ll get even more of it before you die, and that stuff isn’t going to be covered by your living trust because you didn’t have it included at the time you made the trust. Make sense?

A Will Can Do Things A Trust Cannot

To explain this in simpler, more cultural terms, think of a Living Trust like Robin and the Will is like Batman. Sure, Robin is great and whatnot. He can do a lot of cool things and he can hold his own, but Batman is on a completely another level. It’s the same thing with Wills and Living Trusts.

For example, if you have minor children, and you want someone to take care of them when either you or your spouse dies, you must use a will. You cannot use a living trust. Also, in a will, you can cancel any debts that you are owed, and that’s another thing that a living trust cannot do.

A Final Word From Justin Scott

Attorney Justin Scott sheds more light on the matter. “It can be nerve-wracking to try and think of if you’ve covered all your bases when planning for the future. It’s no question that something will inevitably get left out or you’ll forget this or that. And while you can most certainly create a will on your own, it can still be a bit confusing. If you’d like assistance with drawing up a will or living trust, or if you have questions about anything else, my team and I would be happy to assist you, and get you the help you need.”

How to Avoid Probate: Part 1

“Probate this, probate that!” you may be thinking. That’s fine, but what if I don’t want to deal with any of it? Is there a way to avoid it entirely?

The simple one-word answer is: YES!

In Part 1 of this three-part quick how-to guide, we’ll cover a couple of things: Revocable Living Trusts, Pay-On-Death Accounts, and Registrations.

To begin, let’s look at the first thing.

Revocable Living Trust

Basically, Living trusts were created in order to give people an end-run around probate. One advantage of having any of your valuable property in a trust is that it is not considered part of the probate estate. Keep in mind, however, that it is counted as part of the estate for federal tax purposes.) The reason for this is because someone called a trustee, and not you as an individual, owns the property left in the trust.

After you pass away, the trustee can then easily and quickly pass along the trust property to whomever you left it to—thus avoiding the probate process. You are also able to specify in the trust document (think of it almost like a will) who you want to inherit the property, whether family or friends.

Pay-On-Death Accounts

Something interesting that you can do with your bank accounts and retirement accounts are to convert them into what is known as a Pay-On-Death account. This process is rather easy. All you have to do is fill out a simple form and then list someone as a beneficiary. Upon death, the monies in those accounts go directly to the beneficiary you listed and thus avoid the probate process.


You can also do the same thing for security registrations and, in some states, even vehicle registrations as well. It is important to note that some states also allow for Payable-On-Death real estate deeds that use a deed that doesn’t go into effect until you pass away.

Other Ways to Avoid Probate

So as you can see, there are quite a few ways to fully avoid going through probate if that’s something you decide you’d rather not do. In part 2 of our article, we’ll look at how to avoid probate using Joint Ownership of Property and by giving Gifts.

Scott Counsel’s attorneys are well-versed in Surrogate Court procedures. When your rights are violated, we can advise you of your rights and, if necessary, file a lawsuit to seek an appropriate remedy. Contact us today at (856) 485-4585.