Understanding “I Love You Wills” in New Jersey


If you are married and creating or updating your estate plan, you may be considering “I love you Wills.” Essentially, this type of Will leaves all your personal belongings to your spouse in the event of your death, and vice versa.

For many married couples, “I love you Wills” present a more straightforward approach to estate planning — you love your spouse, you leave everything you have to him or her and that’s that.

Yet clients considering “I love you Wills” often wonder, what happens to my Will if my spouse and I get divorced? First of all, you should update your Will during any major life event — births, deaths, new jobs and divorce just to name a few. However, what if you fail to update your Will after divorce? Does your ex still get everything? Fortunately, the State of New Jersey has laws in place to protect divorcees who previously had an “I love you Will” in place.

According to N.J.S.A. § 3B:3-14, there is a revocation of probate and non-probate transfers by divorce or annulment. So, let’s say you are happily married and have an “I love you Will” in place. Then, at some point down the road, you and your spouse get divorced but you forget to update your “I love you Will”. New Jersey law revokes any bequests made to your former spouse and they automatically pass on to your next beneficiaries.

In addition, if your ex-spouse was named the primary executor of your “I love you Will”, worry not — your Will would be probated by the next person you named as executor of your Will. There are only a few ways to “revive” the bequests to spouses in “I love you Wills” after divorce in New Jersey and they are as follows:

  1. Remarriage;
  2. Revocation or nullification of the divorce; or
  3. The execution of a Will or Codicil after divorce.

The statute also revokes any survivorship claims either spouse has in a joint asset. This means that if you and your ex-spouse owned a piece of real estate together, your stake in the property would pass to your other beneficiaries and not to your surviving spouse. N.J.S.A. § 3B:3-14 also revokes the beneficiary rights of your former spouse to your life insurance policy unless otherwise specified in your divorce agreement.

There is no perfect Will for married couples — every relationship is different and requires its own custom tailored estate plan. Whether you are considering an “I love you Will” or need help updating your current estate plan, it is in your best interest to contact an estate planning attorney.

To discuss your NJ estate planning matter today, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com, or call 908-236-6457.

Taking Care of Tomorrow: Five Important Reasons Why You Need an Estate Plan

It’s easy to put off preparing your estate plan until tomorrow. Let’s talk about five good reasons to speak with an attorney and prepare your estate plan today.

Estate plans do more than direct the distribution of assets after you pass away. In fact, basic estate plans are essential for all adults over 18. Consider these key goals if you do not already have an estate plan:

  1. Taking care of yourself: Estate planning enables you to direct your own healthcare should you become incapacitated or terminally ill. In New Jersey and throughout the United States, all adults need an advance medical directive. Advance directives allow you to name a healthcare representative or proxy to carry out your wishes at end-of life. You can also prepare a Living Will that provides direction to your healthcare proxy, family members and medical team about life-sustaining measures that you may—or may not—desire.
  2. Taking care of others: After your death, an estate plan helps your family to regain their personal and financial stability. Preparing careful answers to important questions reduces the tension and stress on family members—and helps them move forward.
  3. Protecting your wealth and privacy: Your estate holds all of your assets and property. A well-prepared estate plan enables you to transfer the ownership of property and wealth outside of the public probate process. Your privacy is protected, legal costs are lowered and, importantly, assets are protected for those you love.
  4. Designating a guardian for minor children: No one expects to leave their child in the care of others. Naming a guardian for minor children is an act of love and responsibility that protects children if both parents pass away before those children reach adulthood.
  5. Avoiding intestacy: Individuals who pass away without a Will are termed intestate. Without a Will, the assets of your estate pass to heirs according to the law of New Jersey—not according to your wishes. 

Your estate plan should be reviewed about every five years, or in the event of the following:

  • A change in marital status: A divorce, marriage or the death of a spouse should trigger  the review and revision of your estate plan. In the case of a later-life remarriage, an estate plan addresses the need to protect inheritance plans for adult children.
  • A windfall or significant loss: If you reap a financial windfall or suffer a business loss, a review of your estate plan can address the change.
  • Changes in law that apply to you: Changes to inheritance, trust and tax laws could affect distribution of your assets. Be sure your estate plan reflects current laws and limits. 

There is no time like the present for preparing an estate plan. Protect yourself, your wealth and your beneficiaries by speaking with an estate planning attorney in New Jersey today.

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