According to a recent report, more than half of American adults have failed to take the steps necessary to protect themselves, their loved ones and their assets, if they were to become incapacitated or pass away. Not taking the time to do estate planning will only create problems down the line. It is something that every New Jersey resident should do, especially if they have children and/or property.
A story was shared on a national news station about a woman in another state who is fighting to keep her house, all because her stepfather failed to leave a will. In a video that accompanied the report, this woman claims that she has lived in the family home for over four decades. The home was originally purchased for $23,000 and is now worth over $1 million. Because there was no will when her stepfather died, according to intestate laws, the property passes to the closest blood relatives. In this case, that happens to be family that lives in another country.
While this woman was raised by the deceased and was his primary caregiver up until his death in 2011, she has no claim to his property. If she wants to keep the home, she has been told that she has to buy it from her stepfather’s relatives. It seems wrong, but it is how the law works. This whole mess could possibly have been avoided had this woman’s stepfather at least left a will naming her as a beneficiary.
There may be some New Jersey residents who honestly do not care what happens to their stuff when they die, and there are others who do want to make sure their assets go to certain people or organizations. For those on the latter side, it cannot happen without the proper legal documents in place. For those on the former side, estate planning is not just about asset distribution; it is also about personal protection, should one become incapacitated, and protecting minor children, should one die — among other things. It is worth taking the time to do, and legal counsel can help one do it properly.