From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: LGBT Intestate Succession for the Spouse
Most Recently Updated July 7 2018
“If I die without a Will, do all my Assets Pass to my Same-Sex Spouse?”
LGBT Intestate Succession for the Spouse
Many people believe that if they are married without children, there is no need for a Will. They believe that if they die, all their assets will pass to their spouse. In New Jersey, that may not be true.
First let me give you some background.
If you die a resident of New Jersey without having signed a Will, you are “intestate”, and the New Jersey Rules of Intestacy dictate who inherits your Probate Assets. Probate Assets are the things that you owned in your own name that had no beneficiary designations. Some assets, like life insurance and IRAs typically name a beneficiary. Those things pass to the beneficiary even if you have no Will. Other assets, such as real estate, bank accounts and cars typically do not have a beneficiary designation. Those are the assets that make up your Probate Estate; the assets that pass under your Will. Those Probate Assets pass under the New Jersey Rules of Intestacy if you die with no will.
A New Jersey resident at the time of your death without children, married to a same-sex spouse and you have no Will, then your Probate Estate will pass as follows:
- If you die married to your LGBT spouse, but have no surviving parents, then your spouse inherits all your assets.
- If you die married to you LGBT spouse, but have parents that survive you, then
- Your spouse inherits the first 25% of your Intestate Estate, but not less than $50,000.00 or more than $200,000.00, plus 3/4 of the remaining assets.
- Your Parents inherit the remaining assets.
The presumption is that if you had no Will you meant to leave some of your estate for your parents’ care. This mistake can cause conflict, confusion and increase the cost of probating your estate
James and Robert are married without children. James dies without a Will, owning an $800,000.00 home in Ocean County and survived by his father. However, James wanted Robert to live in the house until his death, but because he died without a Will, his father forced the house sold for $800,000.00. Robert receives the first 25% ($200,000.00) and ¾ of the remainder ($450,000.00). James’ father receives the remainder ($150,000.00).
Erica and Laura are married without children. Laura dies without a Will a resident of Berks County, owning several large investment accounts that have no beneficiary designation, and survived by her parents. The parents are divorced and dislike one another and neither parent cares for Erica. Both parents and Erica petition the Berks County Surrogate to serve as the Administrator. Expensive litigation that can last months may begin at this point.
The same James and Robert are married without children. James dies with a Will that gives all of his assets to Robert. Robert inherits the $800,000.00 home and James’ father has no claim to the estate. So, Robert is free to live in the house.
The same Erica and Laura are married without children. Laura dies with a Will that gives each of her parents $20,000.00 and the remainder of her estate to Erica. The Will names Erica as the executor. Erica then files the Will, the Surrogate names her executor and the feuding parents have no claim to serve as executor. Erica gives the parents each a check for $20,000.00 and they have no further interest in the estate.
Having a Will completely avoids the New Jersey Rules of Intestacy.
More Planning Questions?
LGBT Estate Planning is only a piece of the Estate Planning process. By all means, if you want to learn more, please read my more detailed article, Estate Planning Everything You Need to Know.
In Conclusion: LGBT Intestate Succession for the Spouse
I hope that this article was helpful in explaining the importance of estate planning as an LGBT couple. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website so you can learn more. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!
Let our Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced estate planning lawyers. By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!
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