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Wills and Estate Planning: What You Need to Know

Wills and Estate Planning are very sensitive and complex endeavors, but they are essential for everyone, regardless of how much or how little they own. Wills are documentation of your decisions intended to represent your plans for your dependents and assets that will affect your family and loved ones when you pass away. 

If you don’t have a Will, a court decides who will receive your assets.

If you die without a Will, the state will decide who gets what without regard to your wishes or heirs’ needs. All fifty states have intestacy laws that vary considerably from state to state. In general, if you die and leave a spouse and children, your assets will be split between them. If you’re single with no children, the state will likely 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 a will and estate plan leaves an intestate estate. The administration of the deceased’s estate must be opened in the county where they 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

Why do I need a Will and Estate Plan?

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 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 them. If you’re single with no children, 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 the 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 tax law changes. 

Contact a lawyer specializing in Wills and Estate Planning to discuss the estate planning options available to protect you and your loved ones.

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