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What Happens When You Don’t Have an Estate Plan?

Jun 16, 2017 | Written by: Daniel S. Makoski, Esq. |

There are two ways in which your property can be apportioned to family and friends after your passing.

The first way is via your explicit instructions in the form of a Will or Trust.  An estate planning attorney can help you to draft a document that will provide express instructions to a fiduciary to follow through and deliver your property to your chosen beneficiaries. 

If you do not put an estate plan in place, the state in which you reside at the time of your death chooses who gets your property. This can have some very negative consequences. If you die without a Will or Trust, the state will determine who receives what and in what percentage, but often the default rules create results that are directly the opposite of your actual wishes.

Below are just two scenarios that a well-drafted and executed estate plan can avoid:

  1. If you have no children and a parent who relies on government assistance, when you pass away in NJ, your parent’s Medicaid or other assistance is at risk. Often as parents grow older, they move to long-term care facilities and rely on Medicaid to offset a substantial portion of the cost. However, because an individual who uses Medicaid cannot opt out of accepting a gift in a will or via an intestacy statute, a predeceased child’s assets will transfer to Mom or Dad and may invalidate any assistance that Mom or Dad are currently receiving or may be eligible for in the future.
  1. If you have a child who relies on government assistance, the outcome may be similar to the above. The value of assets that your child would be entitled to can invalidate any assistance he or she is currently receiving. This may include medical or educational services for a special needs child.

The loss of government assistance in these cases can be easily avoided by engaging an estate attorney here at Gebhardt & Kiefer, P.C.  A proper plan can not only avoid the invalidation of assistance to your loved ones, but can also provide a benefit to them.


Daniel Makoski, Esq., is an associate with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC, and practices primarily in the areas of tax planning, tax controversy, transactional business matters, wills, trusts, and estate planning.  He was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of Estate Planning & Probate in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Contact Mr. Makoski for a consultation at 908-735-5161 or via email.

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