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What happens if you do not leave a will?

Making a will often falls into the category of tasks many people put off indefinitely. After all, you have so many things to take care of right now, and focusing on what happens after your passing can feel somewhat morbid. However, no matter your age, drawing up a will should be on your list of priorities.

New Jersey's intestacy laws provide rules for distibuting proeprty in the absence of a will. Before distribution, the state deducts taxes, debts and exemptions from the estate. Any property you owned jointly with your spouse automatically goes to the spouse. Property such as an insurance policy, which comes with a designated beneficiary, goes to that beneficiary. If you leave a spouse but no parents or descendants, everything else goes to the spouse.

Spouse and children

If you and the surviving spouse had children in common, the spouse gets everything. If your children are from a different relationship, the spouse first receives 25 percent of the estate, with the qualification that this share amounts to at least $50,000 but no more than $200,000. After this subtraction, the spouse receives half of what remains. The other half goes to the children from the other relationship, divided equally among them. If any child is deceased, his or her children divide that share equally.

Parents and other heirs

When only by a spouse and a parent or parents survives the individual, after receiving the 25 percent share, the spouse also gets 75 percent remainder of the estate and the parent or parents get 25 percent. If an individual leaves no surviving spouse, parents or children, other relatives who may inherit without a will include siblings and their descendants, grandparents, or the parents' siblings and their descendants. If none of these are living, the estate goes to the State of New Jersey.

Making a proper will can ensure you get control over what happens to your property after you pass. It can also avoid significant stress and hassle dealing with intestacy through the Office of the Surrogate for your surviving relatives. An experienced estate attorney can help you plan the disposition of your property in a way that truly reflects your wishes.

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