Recently, nj.com published an article that asked a very timely question: “Do you need a will because of coronavirus?” The reality is that, even if we delete the qualifier “because of coronavirus,” the answer is almost always a vociferous ”yes!” Whether there’s an ongoing pandemic or not, you need a will or trust. Whether you are in compromised health or not, you need a will or trust. Whatever your situation or the world’s situation, it is extremely likely that, if you don’t already have one, you need a will or a trust, and should reach out to an experienced Hoboken estate planning attorney without delay about your goals and needs.
In the article, the author took a look at a couple from Wall in their mid 50s. The couple had no children, but did have some clear estate planning goals, including that they wanted their assets to go to their nieces and nephews after they died. They had not given much thought to estate planning prior to the pandemic, and had created neither wills nor a trust, according to the article.
The article gives readers much food for thought. For one thing, the article touched upon the concern that many who are motivated to obtain a will or trust may be feeling right now; which is, can I still get a will or trust with the current restrictions in place?
The answer is yes, you can! Depending on your circumstances, there may be multiple ways to consult and communicate with your attorney, so that your attorney can give you the advice you need, and you can give your attorney the information he needs to provide the best advice and the most customized estate planning documents. Those may include socially distant in-person meetings, telephone consultations or perhaps consultation by videoconference. Even with the limitations COVID-19 has created, there’s still a way to work with your attorney and get the documents you need.
When it comes time to sign those documents, there are also ways to get that done, as well. These documents need to be notarized but, fortunately here in New Jersey, your documents can be notarized remotely. Back in April, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that permits notaries to administer oaths and notarize documents remotely.
Intestacy: the risky gamble you take when you leave no will or trust
Another issue that this Wall couple’s case highlights is the importance of getting a will or trust when you have estate planning goals that differ from simply “everything to my spouse and kids.” This Wall couple desired that, after they both passed, their wealth would transfer to their nieces and nephews. But if they both died in their current state of having no will or trust, would that happen?
Probably not. That’s because of the intestate laws in New Jersey, which is the body of law that says what happens when you die with no will or trust. This couple is in their 50s. It’s quite possible one or both have living parents. If they both died suddenly, say from a tragic accident or COVID-19, the intestate laws would search first for surviving children or a spouse. As there would be none in this couple’s circumstance, the next people in line to receive the assets are surviving parents, not surviving nieces and nephews.
If the parents were dead, the intestate laws would next look for surviving siblings to distribute the estate. While some of those siblings are, in this case, the parents of the nieces and nephews whom the couple wanted to have their assets, some perhaps are not. All of those siblings would be entitled to an equal share of the deceased’s assets, whether or not they were the parents of the couple’s beloved nieces and nephews. Even those siblings who were the parents of the nieces and nephews would be under no legal obligation to transmit one cent of the assets to their children. In other words, the intestate laws would almost certainly not do what this couple wanted.
So, the question was, “Do you need a will because of coronavirus?” And the answer is, “No. You need a will (or trust) because you have loved ones you care about and you care what happens to your wealth after you’re gone.” Pandemic or no, this is reason enough for a will or trust. To get the thoughtful advice and diligent legal representation you need, look to knowledgeable Hoboken estate planning attorney Frank Marciano, who has many years of helping people from around New Jersey meet their estate planning needs. To set up a consultation, contact the office online or call 201.656.1000.