In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding family law, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Why Your Will Should Be a Priority
According to the most recent census, in 2012, the state of New Hampshire had a population of approximately 1.3 million people. Assuming that New Hampshire’s adult population is on par with the national averages, nearly half of these individuals have not created a will. While the average American’s lifespan is longer than ever, there is no doubt that having a will in place lessens the burden that your loved ones must carry once you pass away. For New Hampshire’s residents, estate planning and wills have never been more important.
Simply defined, a will is a document that dictates how your property and assets should be divvied up after your passing. A will has a simple purpose: it ensures that your monetary assets and physical property are left to those of your choosing.
Wills In New Hampshire
In our state, a will is accepted by the New Hampshire courts in only one format. It must be in a written format, attested to by the appropriate number of witnesses, and finished with a notary seal. There are only a handful of scenarios in which an exception will made to this requirement. In general, these exceptions are applicable only to those who are members of the armed forces. Your New Hampshire estate planning lawyer can assist you in creating a will that follows the proper format.
A will is classified as valid only when it has been signed by two or more witnesses who can testify to the fact that you (the testator) created the will under your own volition and without the presence of duress. In the arena of estate planning, a testator is defined as the individual whose estate is addressed within the will. Any changes or codicils made to your will at a later date must also meet these conditions before they are legally considered valid.
New Hampshire Intestacy
In the state of New Hampshire, if a person dies without having created a will, then this scenario is known as intestacy or intestate. Rather than following the directions of a will, your monetary assets and physical property would automatically pass to your closest family members, which generally means your children. If you do not have any children at the time of your passing, then your assets would pass on to your spouse – assuming that your parents are not living. If you are married at the time of your passing and other descendants are living, then your spouse would receive the first $250,000.00 in addition to one half of your remaining estate. The other half of the estate would pass to your other descendants.
The same rule is applicable if you to leave behind a living spouse and parents with one general exception. Your surviving spouse would receive the first $250,000.00 and three fourths of your remaining estate. The rest of your estate would pass to your parents.
If you were to pass away and did not have a current will or any living relatives, then your estate would automatically pass to the state of New Hampshire, and your assets would be absorbed into their coffers; however, this scenario rarely occurs. In fact, New Hampshire state laws are designed to prevent this from happening – even if it means that your estate is inherited by a fifth cousin you have never met before.
The What If Questions
There are always a handful of extraordinary scenarios that could potentially become a bit problematic. For example, there is a period of time that is referred to as “the survivorship period”. Simply put, it means that any individual who is to inherit a portion or all of your estate must live a minimum of 120 hours after your passing. If the recipient were to pass away 118 hours after you do, then their estate will not enjoy any of the benefits that come with inheriting your estate.
A similar remarkable situation is that of “half relatives”. Were you aware that, within the state of New Hampshire, “half relatives” are classified as “whole relatives” when it comes to estate planning? For example, let’s say that your parents divorce sometime after your birth. Each parent goes on to remarry and have other children. These new children have now become your half brothers and sisters. For the purposes of estate planning, the “half” title is dropped.
If the unimaginable occurs and a New Hampshire resident dies while leaving behind a pregnant spouse, then the unborn child is bestowed with the same legal rights as any living children upon their birth. However, the survivorship period is still applicable. The child must survive their parent by 120 hours.
There’s no doubt about it: New Hampshire estate planning can be a tricky business. The best course of action is for you to consult with an experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorney who can assist you in navigating these intricate and complex channels. There is an undeniable peace of mind that accompanies the knowledge that you have covered all of your bases – even if you live to be 101.
To learn more estate planning in New Hampshire, please contact our law offices today to speak with an NH estate planning lawyer. Before meeting with one of our attorneys, take a moment and write down any questions you may have, so we can answer them during our meeting. We look forward to hearing from you.
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