Puff & Cockerill LLC feel that it is very important for all of our clients to have an estate plan in place. No matter how simple or complicated your estate, it will definitely benefit from a well-thought-out will. It will also save your loved ones time and expense after you are gone. Discussed below are some key facts that lead us to this opinion. Contact us If you need further information to have your will done today.
Why do I need a Will ?
Probating a will is a simple, quick, and inexpensive process. A common misconception is that not having a will makes things simpler, because it avoids probate and taxes. It does not. First of all, the lack of a will does not necessarily avoid probate. Second, estate tax is determined by who inherits and the size of the estate, not whether it goes through probate. For example, there is no New Jersey inheritance tax if the estate is inherited by the decedent's spouse or issue (children, grandchildren, etc.). Also, if the estate is valued at less than $650,000, there is no federal inheritance tax.
In addition, many people think that probate is a time consuming and expensive process. It is not. It is simply the process of proving a will's validity after your death, and involves filing the will and the death certificate at the surrogate's office in the county in which the testator last resided. A fee of between $50 and $100 is paid, and Letters Testamentary (documents that give authority to act to your executor, the person you designate to handle the affairs of your estate). The whole process takes between 30 and 45 minutes.
Having a will saves your loved ones expense. If you should die without a will (or "intestate"), a bond must be posted to make sure that the estate is administered properly. The annual premiums on that bond during the administration of your estate will most likely be significantly more than it would cost you to hire a lawyer to prepare a will that relieves your executor of that responsibility.
A will insures that your estate will be handled in the manner you want it to be. A will is a set of instructions for the distribution of your assets upon your death, and the only way to make sure that those assets are distributed according to your wishes is to have a will. If you leave no will, the State decides who will represent your estate, and a set of laws called "Intestate Succession" determines who gets what. Under that law, non family members cannot inherit, and if no one survives you that can, all of your property will go to the State of New Jersey.
What if you have children from a prior marriage that your current spouse has not adopted? If you die intestate, your spouse gets everything. But if your spouse then subsequently dies without a will, your children will not be provided for.
Another problem arises if you have minor children. First of all, who will take care of them if you die without your spouse surviving you? Only through a will can you name a guardian to take care of your children. Second of all, what if your minor children are the only ones that stand to inherit because your spouse died before you do? Without a will that sets up a trust for those children and names a trustee to look after it, you can only imagine the litigation that that can lead to, with people fighting over who should take care of the children and who gets control of their money.
A will can help even if you just want to pass your estate to your spouse. Many people think that, since they want everything to go to their surviving spouse, they don't need a will. Although intestate succession would insure that it went to your surviving spouse, what if you both die within five days of one another or together in an automobile accident? Under the law, that would cause a bit of confusion as to which direction the assets go. Does it all pass to the husband's estate or to the wife's? Or did they truly die simultaneously, and so it goes to the children, and they are minors!
What if you have filed for divorce, receive an inheritance of your own, and then die before the divorce becomes final Your spouse could then obtain property that he or she might not have been entitled to in the divorce.
A will is simple to change and modify. Some people think that having a will sets things in stone and involves effort to change. Not so. Simple changes, such as the name of an executor, guardian, trustee, or heir, can be affected by a codicil. This is a document that refers to your will and sets forth specific changes to its text. The two should be kept together at all times.
A commercial will kit is no substitute for a will drafted by an attorney. Will kits are prepared so as to be used in all fifty states. Therefore, problems can arise from the inevitable differences in the laws of each state, and even one mistake could lead to the expenditure of time and money by your loved ones, especially if the mistake prevents your will from being probated! Also, you may not know the tax consequences to your estate, and thus not plan it properly in order to maximize your family's inheritance. After all, if you can't take it with you, why should the government get it?
From this you can see that the advantages of having a will are greater than the disadvantages, and so it is worth the time and the money to make sure that your loved ones get what you want them to, and that your family will be taken care of when you are gone.
If you would like to get more information on estate planning and wills, the following site may be of interest:
The information set forth above constitutes general answers to certain questions pertaining to New Jersey Estate Law and is not intended or designed to replace the advice of an attorney after a careful review of the individual facts of your case. Feel free to contact us to discuss your case. Please read our site wide legal disclosure.