When you die, you will leave an estate. Your estate is comprised of everything you owned, saved and accumulated during your life. It is your legacy, yet you can’t take it with you when you die.
A Last Will is a legal document that directs the distribution of the assets of your estate. Without a will, the state in which you reside decides how to distribute your estate to beneficiaries according to state laws. This is known as dying intestate.
Most people should have in place a Last Will and Testament. Here are some of many situations when a will is appropriate:
- You own real estate. Even if you own the property jointly with others, or own a marital home with your spouse, the property could end up in your name solely.
- You own bank accounts individually and fail to designate any payable on death or transfer on death beneficiaries.
- You have property without a beneficiary designation, such as stocks.
- You own a business in an LLC or corporation with others. While a shareholder or member’s agreement is the optimal way to govern what happens to your business interest upon death, in cases of a single-member LLC or sole proprietorship, or where there is no shareholder member’s agreement in place, a Last Will governs what happens to the business.
- You want to leave a gift for a friend or family member, or disinherit somebody from your estate. The default rules of distribution require your property to pass to the people closest in bloodline to you, or if you have no blood relatives, your property goes to the State, so if you want to change that, you need to do a will.
- You have minor or disabled children and don’t want his or her distribution to go outright to him or her. Leaving an inheritance can affect your disabled child’s SSI and Medicaid eligibility benefits if distributed outright, and you may not trust your children with money. So Wills can include a trust(s) for the benefit of a child, and you have the peace of mind knowing that your child’s money is being managed by a trusted individual.
- You have specific funeral instructions. If you want your loved ones to know your final wishes and act on them, a Last Will allows you to memorialize those wishes and designate a person to be your funeral representative.
- You have a large estate and are looking to have your beneficiaries avoid the federal (or if it returns, New Jersey’s) estate tax.
To discuss your NJ estate planning matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing or telephone consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
Written by Stephen W. Kornas, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright