Page 1

BEFORE DIVORCE, KNOW NEW JERSEY ESTATE LAWS What You Don’t Know Could Cost You Everything

ROGER LEVINE Levine & Furman, LLC

NEW Before JERSEYDivorce, ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY Know New Jersey Estate Laws

1


Divorce ranks in the top 5 most stressful life events and for good reason: divorce affects every family member and the changes that come with that decision are overwhelming. There are kids, assets, new addresses, schools and lifestyles. It’s easy to allow that to consume us, but there’s another aspect that many don’t consider right away: our estates. New Jersey estate laws are specific when it comes to wills and asset distribution. Leaving out these considerations during the divorce process can result in more than a few surprises when your will is read following your death. Estate planning attorneys have an obligation to address the importance of updating those various documents after (or ideally, during) a client’s divorce. What happens if you don’t change your will and you are in an accident? In New Jersey, the law requires a former spouse to be skipped and passed on to the next named beneficiary in your will. Not only that, but if your spouse was named as your executor and you’re no longer married to that person, it goes to the next named beneficiary. Sounds easy enough, right? As we know, anything related to divorce is never quite what it seems.

Divorce ranks in the top 5 most stressful life events and for good reason: divorce affects every family member and the changes that come with that decision are overwhelming.

If you remarry your former spouse, the rights revert back and if the divorce is somehow nullified, nothing changes your will. Not only that, but your beneficiary rights are revoked on matters relating to insurance policies during a divorce with one exception:

If your divorce attorneys acknowledge that it shouldn’t change due to any minor children born during the marriage, your final divorce judgment should reflect that.

Levine & Furman, LLC

Before Divorce, Know New Jersey Estate Laws

2


One question we hear often when clients look to create their estate plans is what happens with property that is jointly owned. Does the former spouse, who owns the property with you, gain full ownership? The answer is no. Like the will and insurance policies, the next beneficiary in line is who receives your share of the ownership. Survivorship rights simply don’t transcend to those who also happen to be ex husbands or ex wives.

FREE ESTATE PLANNING REPORT

There’s also another crucial element that goes into the mix: There are federal laws that override state laws when it comes to your retirement plan. Simply put, if you don’t change it, no one else can. Your ex-spouse maintains his or her share. As estate planning attorneys, we always strongly recommend clients review their various legal documents from time to time. Life changes on a dime and what was ideal in 1995 may be laughable when you look at it with today’s eyes. How does your debt load look these days? How much credit card debt are you carrying? Whose names are those accounts in? Are you contributing enough to your retirement plan? Have you had a new baby? If so, have you considered his role in your will and estate planning efforts? How about savings plans? College funds for the little ones? Life insurance policies? When you remarry, you’ll need to go back to the basics and start the process over, unless, of course, you have no intention of naming the new spouse as a beneficiary. Fair warning: that could lead to another divorce – or at least a rather difficult and uncomfortable few days that interrupt your otherwise blissful new marriage. Also, when you do have those discussions, be sure your new

Levine & Furman, LLC

What is Estate Planning? And What Can an Estate Plan Do For You and Your Family? An Estate Plan: we all know we need one, but too often, Estate Planning gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. The truth is, Estate Planning should be top priority. Find out more about Estate Planning and learn how to choose an estate attorney. Click to Download Your Free Estate Planning Report Today

Before Divorce, Know New Jersey Estate Laws

3


spouse understands the importance of providing for your favorite charity or any kind of other financial arrangements provided for in your will for those outside your immediate family. The estate laws in New Jersey are specific, but they’re also straight forward, especially when it comes to divorces and beneficiaries. What happens when you’re separated, you’ve filed for divorce and it’s pending and you die? Your will is enforceable in its entirety – unless you’ve changed it already and even then, there are procedures that the law requires. If you’re married and separated (though you haven’t filed for divorce), these procedures must be followed. In New Jersey if a spouse is removed from your will, there still exists what’s referred to as a “one third augmented” rule. This means your spouse could still claim one-third of your estate after funeral, administration and other financial obligations are paid. That’s applicable if you still share a home with your separated spouse. That, unfortunately, means that your spouse could say the two of you were not living at two different addresses and unless someone can prove otherwise, he or she could use the one third rule. It also holds true with domestic partner relationships as well.

There’s no simplicity built into these laws, but they were written to ensure an “across the board” fairness to all, regardless of their situations. Your best bet is to always consult with an estate planning attorney, who will provide not only the specifics when it comes to your options, but he will also be able to make recommendations on things you may have even considered.

As you can see, there’s no simplicity built into these laws, but they were written to ensure an “across the board” fairness to all, regardless of their situations. Your best bet is to always consult with an estate planning attorney, who will provide not only the specifics when it comes to your options, but he will also be able to make recommendations on things you may have even considered. As your divorce moves through the process, so can your wishes for your assets

Levine & Furman, LLC

Before Divorce, Know New Jersey Estate Laws

4


following death. Your goal, at that point, should be to get through it with as little stress as possible and that’s just one more reason why an estate plan should be part of your arsenal.

About the Author

Roger Levine Roger Levine has been a principal in the East Brunswick law firm of Levine & Furman since 1982. The firm specializes in estate tax planning including the most current and sophisticated estate planning techniques, with an emphasis on family wealth transfers and complex income tax matters. In addition to helping clients avoid probate, protect their assets, and provide for the security of their loved ones with a well-crafted estate plan, Mr. Levine is a lecturer at Seton Hall School of Law. He also regularly presents educational seminars to the public on various estate planning topics and has appeared on television and radio, discussing both basic and advanced estate planning techniques.

Levine & Furman, LLC

Before Divorce, Know New Jersey Estate Laws

5


Before Divorce, Know New Jersey Estate Laws  

Divorce ranks in the top 5 most stressful life events and for good reason: divorce affects every family member and the changes that come wit...

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you