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How is property passed along if it’s not listed in a will?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Estate Planning

People in New Jersey who take the time to write a will do so with the intention of making sure their property goes where they want it to after they are gone. Despite that, simply having a will does not mean all the potential challenges are solved.

Some do not want to take the time to list every single item they own in the document. It can be time-consuming and stressful. For properties that are not directly mentioned in the will with the testator wanting them go to someone specific, it is essential to know how the law addresses tangible property and how a separate document can dispose of it legally as part of the estate plan.

A written statement can address certain properties

Properties that are not directly mentioned in a will could be addressed by a written statement. The written statement can be referenced in the will without saying what it contains.

For example, if the testator had jewelry such as a ring or necklace, an automobile, baseball cards, or even something seemingly innocuous like a piece of furniture, it can be passed along without being directly referenced in the will if it is noted in the document.

A person who had several children and grandchildren could have had a relationship with one that focused on their shared fascination with sports. They might have collected items together. To make sure that person receives the tangible sports memorabilia, the document can say so separate from the will. The same is true for any property.

There can be questions about admissibility. To address that, the document needs to be in the testator’s handwriting or signed by them with a description of the items and who will receive them so it is reasonably certain what the testator wanted.

The document could be referred to when the testator dies. It can be written prior to the will being executed or after it has been executed. The testator can update it as needed after the will has been completed.

Estate planning should be clear and easily understood

If a person writes an estate plan and does not want to itemize every piece of tangible property, a written document separate from the will for specific properties can be used. It is important to remember that this cannot be used for money and other financial vehicles like stocks, bonds and securities.

The testator must remember to sign it and date it whether it is handwritten or not. A key is that no witnesses are needed. The items should be clearly described in as much detail as possible. The will must mention this document. Testators need to make clear as to whom the beneficiary for these specific properties will be.

People might not think this is a significant issue, but with some properties that can be of immense financial and sentimental value, this could lead to disagreement if it is not transparent as to what the person wanted. As with all aspects of estate planning, it is useful to be aware of the law and what the positives and negatives are when using various strategies. This is beneficial to ensuring a person’s wishes are carried out as they intended.

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