Having a legally valid will in place helps ensure that your final wishes are communicated to loved ones and allows you to designate who will inherit from your estate. If you have not taken the time to create a will, this important task should be at the top of your list. However, a will is not something to do once and forget. There are numerous reasons why you may want to update it over the years. In addition to reflecting the current state of your finances and the property you own, it should also reflect any changes in your family situation.
The Importance of Having a Will and Updating it Regularly
According to surveys from the American Association of Retired People (AARP), more than 60% of U.S. adults do not have a will or other important estate planning documents in place. In addition to providing an inventory of the property and assets you own, your will can convey how you want your estate to be handled and how distributions to friends, family, or charities should be made. It can also include provisions for the care of dependants, such as children or pets.
While many people attempt ‘do it yourself’ wills, these often contain errors and may not comply with New Jersey state laws. As a result, they can be easily contested. To protect yourself, it is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in all aspects of estate planning. However, even once a legally valid will is in place, it still needs to be updated regularly. It should reflect any changes in the amount of property and assets you own, as well as any changes that have occurred within your family since it was created.
How Family Matters Impact Your Will
When you pass away, your estate must be settled through a branch of the New Jersey surrogate court, depending on the county in which you reside. If you die without a will in place, this is known as dying intestate. Your property will be distributed according to state law, rather than your wishes. It could exclude certain important people while costing your loved ones both time and money.
If you do have a will but it is not properly updated to reflect your current family situation, it could also end up causing delays and disputes. To avoid this situation, make sure your will reflects the following:
- Births: While children have basic inheritance rights when it comes to their parents, specify your wishes regarding them and any stepchildren, grandchildren, or even nieces and nephews you wish to inherit.
- Deaths: If you leave money or property to a loved one who eventually passes, his or her share will go to his or her children. If you would rather that money be redistributed among other beneficiaries, specify this in your will.
- Marriages: As spouses also have automatic inheritance rights, this is an important issue to address among beneficiaries.
- Separation or Divorce: While you are separated, your spouse still has automatic inheritance rights. However, once divorced, this is no longer the case. If you wish to leave them something, you will need to specify that.
- Health Issues: If a beneficiary suffers an illness, injury, or mental health problem, it may be wiser to leave that person money in a trust instead.
Reach Out to Our Middlesex County Family Law Attorney
At the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards, Esq., we provide the legal guidance you need when creating a will or when making changes to reflect your current situation. Reach out and contact our Milltown estate planning attorney today to request a consultation.