Dying without a will (which is to say dying “intestate”) means you have no say over who receives your assets. So if you want to be sure that certain personal belongings and/or specific property goes to particular person(s) after your passing, drafting a will can provide you with that peace of mind. Even if you have no concerns over how your property gets divided upon your passing, not caring at all about who gets what, drafting a will could still be the last gift you leave your loved ones, saving your heirs a whole lot of time and money.
The state has “intestate laws” which determine which of your blood relatives receive what share of your estate in the absence of a Will. You will not have the opportunity to utilize the “probate” process, and will instead have your heirs using something called an “estate administration.” Neither the probate or estate administration process in New Jersey or Pennsylvania are terribly complicated, but in other states (New York and Florida) for example it can be a real burden. Also, under most circumstances the administrator of an estate will need to post a bond swearing they will not steal from the estate, and those bonds are expensive, typically approximately 1% of the value of the estate. Those bonds need to be renewed, and paid for, each year.
Intestacy laws usually vary considerably from state to state. Generally, when someone dies and leaves behind children and a spouse, the court will split your remaining assets between them. If you are unmarried and without children, the state will then be forced to locate any remaining blood relatives to determine who will inherit your estate. I would get into the specific Pennsylvania and New Jersey intestacy laws here but I am trying to keep the article general and informational.
As you can already tell, while drafting a will is a small investment on your part, it can save a significant amount of time and money for your relatives. The cost of the bond alone is usually more than the cost of having a lawyer prepare a Will. This process is not necessarily more complicated than having a Will, but it takes the control out of the family and leaves it with the State, which is not usually a good idea.
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