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Making a Will during a Pandemic

Posted on: March 25th, 2020 by Mark R. Friedman

As I read the news during this coronavirus pandemic, every day I read more about the toll this virus is taking. In the US, it seems like New Jersey and the New York area are particularly hard hit, probably because of our population density. I read about people having family dinners and living their lives, and then a few days later passing away almost out of nowhere.

Anything could happen to any of us at any time, but those risks seem particularly acute during a viral pandemic. All of us are vulnerable to this virus, and it’s a sharp and unfortunate reminder of the need for all of us to create a will. With a will, we can be sure that whatever happens, our wishes will be carried out. And you don’t necessarily have to leave your home to create a will.

Typically if someone wanted us (FriedmanLaw) to prepare a will for them, we would meet with them in person, find out what they want and how the documents work, and then prepare the documents and meet with them again a few weeks later to sign everything. The current lockdown throws a wrench into that process, but we still are able to get wills done. We can do the initial meeting by telephone or videochat, and we can prepare some documents for clients to sign at home, at least as a temporary measure until the lockdown is lifted.

It’s important to have a will because it sets forth instructions on what should happen after you pass away. You can appoint someone (the executor) to manage your property and deal with any taxes and legal proceedings. You can appoint someone to manage your funeral and disposition of your remains. You can appoint someone to take care of your children.

Wills also can include protections for your beneficiaries, the people to whom you’re leaving property. For example, imagine a widow with two children, a son and daughter. The children are both adults, married with their own children. The mother wants to leave her property 50% to each of her children. But when the mother passes away, the daughter is in the process of a divorce. If she left her property directly to the daughter, part of it might get taken away in the divorce. Instead, the mother can leave instructions in her will to hold the daughter’s share back in trust, perhaps with the son managing it. This would give some protection to the daughter.

Likewise, imagine the son passes away before the mother. His 50% share would go to his kids. But the kids are 8 and 12 years old, clearly not old enough to manage inherited funds. Again, the mother (grandmother) could leave instructions for the share to be held back in trust and spent on the grandkids’ benefit, but not in their control.

If you pass away without a will, you have no control over how your property goes. It passes under New Jersey’s intestacy statute, which may be contrary to your wishes. You also have no say over who distributes it, and a will makes administering property easier and cheaper.

If you’re interested in making a will, FriedmanLaw can help. We’d be happy to speak with you by phone at 908-704-1900, or by email at LAF@SpecialNeedsNJ.com

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As this website provides general information and isn’t tailored to your particular situation, it doesn’t constitute legal advice and may not take into account rules and exceptions that affect you. Although updated from time to time, this website may not take account of recent legal developments or differences in laws from state to state. For safety sake, obtain individual legal advice before you act! You assume all risk of acting on information contained in this website. This website doesn’t constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship exists unless FriedmanLaw and you execute a written engagement agreement. Please contact us at 908-704-1900 to discuss engaging FriedmanLaw to help resolve your legal concerns.
Homepage photo: Cows grazing at Meadowbrook Farm, Bernardsville, NJ by Siddharth Mallya. October 23, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Autumn_Leaves_13.jpg.
Interior photo: Somerset hills pastoral scene by Lawrence Friedman.
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