Wills and Estate Planning is a very sensitive and complex endeavor but it is important for everyone despite how much or how little you own. Wills are documentations of your decisions that will affect your family and loved ones when you pass away. They are intended to represent your plans and wishes for your dependents, your assets, and representatives of your estate.
If you don’t have a Will, a court decides who will receive your assets.
If you die without a Will in place, the state will decide who gets what, without regard to your wishes or your heirs’ needs. All fifty states have intestacy laws in place that vary considerably from state to state. In general, if you die and leave a spouse and children, your assets will be split between your surviving spouse and children. If you’re single with no children then the state is likely to decide who among your blood relatives will inherit your estate. Making a Will is especially important for people with young children because without a plan appointing guardians of minors, the state will determine who will raise your children.
A person who passes away without having a will and estate plan leaves what is referred to as an intestate estate. The administration of the decedent’s estate must be opened in the county where he or she resided at the time of death.
The person who is seeking to qualify as an administrator must bring into the Surrogate’s office a certified copy of the death certificate, a complete list of names and addresses of all immediate next of kin of the decedent and an exact amount of every asset in the decedent’s name alone. Your right to act as an administrator is defined by law in the following relationship order:
FIRST – Spouse of the decedent
SECOND – Adult children of the decedent
THIRD – Parents of the decedent
FOURTH – Brothers and sisters of the decedent
FIFTH – Children of a deceased brother or sister
A Will is a device that lets you tell the world how you want your assets distributed upon death. A Living Will expresses your health care wishes in case you are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to express them yourself. If you die without one the state decides who gets what, without regard to your wishes or your heirs’ needs.
So-called intestacy laws vary considerably from state to state. In general, though, if you die and leave a spouse and kids, your assets will be split between your spouse and children. If you’re single with no children, then the state is likely to decide who among your blood relatives will inherit your estate.
Making a will is especially important for people with young children because wills are the best way to plan for guardianship of minors.
You may amend your will at any time. In fact, it’s a good idea to review it periodically, especially when your marital status changes or when there has been a change in tax law. Review our checklist to see if updating your estate plan is a good option for you.
Contact a lawyer specializing in Wills and Estate Planning to discuss the estate planning options that are available to you to protect you and your loved ones.
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