A few years ago, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff and Children Who Don’t Want It.” The topic is an issue that, if not uniquely modern, is certain something happening with increased frequency lately. The cold reality is that, just because you value or cherish a particular asset, that doesn’t mean your children will. To avoid your things going to people who don’t need and don’t want them, you need a detailed will or living trust to guide the distribution of your assets after your death, and the right Hoboken estate planning attorney to help you achieve your goals.
More recently, nj.com published a letter from a person who had that kind of unfortunate estate planning problem. The author’s father had recently died with no will or trust. When you die with no will, there is a state statute that will guide how your assets are distributed.
In this son/daughter’s case, the intestate process had resulted in him/her receiving the father’s timeshare. There are various ways this could have happened. For example, this could have been the result if the father was a widower and the writer was the father’s only surviving child, as the law would have distributed all the father’s probate assets to the child.
There was a major problem, though: the child didn’t want the timeshare… at all. Fortunately, this child had an option available under the law. The law allows you to do something called “disclaim.” When you do that, you turn in a form to the court and, if the form is filled out correctly and turned in on time, then the asset you “disclaimed” passes as if you had died before the deceased.
A knowledgeable New Jersey attorney can be very helpful here because, if you don’t file correctly or on time, then you may be legally declared the owner of the unwanted asset and “on the hook” for the costs and expenses associated with it. Disclaiming an asset (or assets,) by the way, can be absolutely essential if you are receiving needs-based benefits like Medicaid. An unexpected inheritance can potentially trigger a disqualification for continued receipt of benefits, but a valid disclaimer can avoid such a disqualification.
Your loved ones and the lovers of your stuff may not be the same people
This deceased father probably never considered the possibility that the any of the assets he left behind would be a burden, not a benefit, to his family. However, this can – and does — happen. Maybe your assets include a house full of mid-century furniture and your sole survivor is a child who is staunchly devoted to modern design… or perhaps you have assets that include a massive collection of 20th Century framed art and your sole survivor is a sibling who’s embraced “tiny house” living. By creating no will or trust, you can leave your cherished assets in the hands of people who wished they didn’t own them.
A properly set up will or living trust can avoid this pitfall, allowing you to help (and not accidentally hinder) your closest loved ones. Your will’s specific bequests can also ensure that your cherished collections and other things end up in the hands of people who will appreciate and enjoy them. To make sure that your estate distribution is “done right,” and will benefit both your loved ones and those who share you taste in furniture, art, coins or Beanie Babies, talk to experienced Hoboken estate planning attorney Frank Marciano, who has many years of handling all kinds of estates, including ones like yours. To set up a consultation, contact the office online or call 201.656.1000.