Notable intestate deaths show importance of estate planning

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Notable Intestate Deaths Show Importance Of Estate Planning

Estate planning is a necessary but often neglected aspect of life. In New Jersey and across the nation, people may understand how vital it is to create even a rudimentary estate plan, but fail to follow through. This can lead to problems if the unexpected happens. Evidence of the litany of challenges that can arise if a person dies without a will have been shown with prominent people in recent years. While those individuals – the performers Prince, Aretha Franklin and Chadwick Boseman – might have had significant assets, dying without a will (dying intestate) can always be an issue. Taking steps and being prepared is imperative.

People from all backgrounds should know about estate planning

The statistics for estate planning yield concerning results regardless of background, race, ethnicity and age. According to, only one-third of adults in the United States have created a will. For the Black community, it is 27.5%. While the latest numbers show an uptick of about 2% in the Black community, it is still something that should be addressed. When a person dies, their estate plan will dictate where their property will go. In the next quarter-century, around $68 trillion will shift to heirs and to charity. If there is no estate plan, the value of the estate could see up to 8% go toward probate.

There is a substantial disparity in the median Black family’s assets when compared to a white family and it is getting progressively worse. To maintain assets and ensure they go where the testator wants them to go, an estate plan is crucial. Experts say that as soon as a person reaches adulthood, they should have an estate plan. This contradicts the notion that it is generally for people who have started a family or are older. In addition to a will, people should be cognizant of other potential needs like powers of attorney for health care decisions and for financial decisions. Also, a living will dictates what medical care can and cannot be provided based on the person’s wishes.

Estate planning is fundamental for everyone no matter their situation

Regardless of age, background, financial assets and goals, it is wise to think about an estate plan. Although the well-known people mentioned above had major assets that were in dispute after they died, this can be a legal consideration no matter how much a person has. Acrimonious disagreements can take an extended amount of time and prove costly. To move forward with a will, a trust, a living will and other documents, having advice is the first step.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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