Oct 12, 2023 | Estate Administration, Estate Planning, Will



What happens if I don’t have a will?


If you haven’t set forth your final wishes in a legally enforceable will, your estate will be distributed according to the law of the state in which you live. If you have no spouse and no child and die without a will in New Jersey, your estate will pass to your parents. If your parents predecease you, then your siblings will take equal shares. If any of your siblings predecease you, then their children inherit their shares. If you have no immediate relatives, New Jersey will take everything.



How many people don’t have a Will?

You may have more than you think. Here’s what is included in an estate:

  • Anything you own that must pass through probate (court-supervised transfer) to your living beneficiaries. This does not include life insurance proceeds, bank accounts that have payable-on-death designations, certain retirement accounts, and types of real estate.
  • Individual assets of which you are the sole owner (bank account, stocks, bonds, automobile, home, jewelry).
  • Tenants-in-common assets such as real estate or a bank account in which you own a percentage. This does not include a joint tenancy which passes to the survivor outside of probate.
  • Beneficiary assets (such as a life insurance policy) for which your beneficiary predeceases you.


Why do I need a Will and How can I make one?


The best way to create a legally enforceable will is to seek the professional services of an attorney. While you can attempt to create your own will, hiring an attorney will ensure your will meets all your state requirements, including proper validation. A lawyer can help you:

  • Prevent your assets from passing to family members who would otherwise inherit.
  • Ease the burden of estate tax for your beneficiaries.
  • With complex plans.
  • Divide assets between multiple entities over multiple generations.
  • Provide for your pets who outlive you.
  • Arrange long-term care for a beneficiary.
  • If you own a business.
  • Create an estate plan to ensure your end-of-life wishes are carried out.
  • Ensure your will is legally enforceable.
  • Strengthen your will to withstand a legal contest. Wills are contested for a number of reasons:
    • Beneficiaries who didn’t get what they expected.
    • It wasn’t properly witnessed.
    • You are claimed to be incompetent.
    • You were allegedly coerced.
    • The will is allegedly fraudulent.


“A clearly drafted and validly executed will,” says aarponline.org, “is the best defense” to a Will contest.


Have questions? Need help drafting a Will? The attorneys at SGW are here to help. Call today for more information: 609-409-3500.

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