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Intestacy: Death Without a Will

Edge Magazine
04.2016

You’ve worked hard to get here…you’ve made a conscious effort to save for retirement, start college savings funds for your children and stick to your financial plan. But does your financial plan include your post-death intentions or does it fall short? Many people ask me if it is necessary to visit a lawyer to document their desire for asset transfers at their death…..doesn’t the law state that my assets will go to my spouse and kids?

What does Nebraska law really say? Most people are surprised to learn that Nebraska’s intestacy laws, which apply when a resident dies without a will, dictate who gets what. For a married person with no children, Nebraska law says $100,000 plus one-half of your remaining assets go to your spouse, and the balance of your assets go to your parents. For a married person with children, Nebraska law says $100,000 plus one-half of your remaining assets go to your spouse, and the balance of your assets go to your children equally.

If these state laws surprise you, you are not alone. Nebraska’s laws for the distribution of your assets if you die without a will usually raise some concerns. Many couples want all or a majority of their assets to support their surviving spouse for the remainder of his or her lifetime. Also, many parents are not comfortable with their children receiving an outright inheritance, depending upon their age and financial maturity. Would receipt of nearly one-half of your estate dissuade your children from pursuing a college education or a career? Would they delay school or work in favor of spending your hard-earned money on cars, vacations or perhaps even more frivolous items?

If the state laws do not reflect the plan you want for your family’s financial protection, don’t let the State of Nebraska dictate these things for you. Instead, visit an attorney to help you prepare and execute an estate plan that fulfills your intentions. Whether your estate is small or large, it is your estate, and it should be distributed in accordance with your wishes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – LISA M. LEHAN 

I am a shareholder of Koley Jessen P.C., L.L.O., located in One Pacific Place. My practice is focused on estate and tax planning. Outside of the office, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our three children. For help with your family’s estate planning needs, please contact me directly at 402.343.3881.

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