Many in Ocean County may find talking about death to be downright depressing. This may explain why so few locally (as well as across the country) have given serious thought to their estate planning. Indeed, information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons shows that only 4 in 10 Americans have a will. Most may believe that estate planning only concerns the elderly (statistics seem to back this up, as AARP’s data reveals that 58 percent of baby boomers do have a will compared to only 22 percent of millennials). Yet accidents or illness could claim a life at any time, and if one does happen to die without a will, his or her presumed heirs could end up missing out on the chance to benefit from his or her estate.
Why is this? The state of New Jersey has set up guidelines on how one’s assets are to be dispersed if he or she dies intestate (without a will). According to these guidelines, if one is survived by a spouse, his or her intestate estate will pass to that spouse as follows:
- 100 percent if the decedent has no living descendants or his or her descendants are also those of the surviving spouse
- The first 25 percent (between $50,000 and $200,000) plus 75 percent of the remaining balance if the decedent has no descendants but is survived by a parent
- The first 25 percent (between $50,000 and $200,000) plus 50 percent of the remaining balance if the descendants of the decedent are not those of the surviving spouse, or the surviving spouse has descendants that are not those of the decedent
If there is no surviving spouse, then the entirety of one’s intestate estate will pass to his or her descendants, parents, siblings, grandparents, next of kin and step-children, in that exact order.