Many people with modest wealth may think that estate planning is not important anymore, given the fact that the federal estate tax exemption will increase to $5.45 million in 2016. With such a high exemption, most estates will not be affected by the federal estate tax. However, that doesn’t mean estate planning isn’t important for people who might leave smaller estates.

In Nebraska, if a married person dies without having made a will or trust (known as “intestate”), his or her estate will pass entirely to the surviving spouse, if the decedent has no children or surviving parent. If they have a spouse and children, the surviving spouse will receive the first $100,000 of the estate plus half the balance, with the children receiving the rest of the estate equally. However, if the deceased’s children are not also the children of his/her surviving spouse, then the spouse receives one-half of the estate, and the children share the other half equally.

A single person who dies intestate in Nebraska and is survived by children will have his or her entire estate go to the children in equal shares. And the estate of a single person dying intestate with no children will pass to a surviving parent or parents, and if none, to surviving siblings in equal shares.

As you can see, there are multiple scenarios how a person’s estate can be transferred if he or she does not implement a will or trust during their lifetime. A part of the estate could go to a relative to whom the decedent might not want it to go. An accurately executed will or trust ensures that a person’s estate will be transferred to whomever he or she wishes.

Additionally, contingencies can be put in place in case you name someone who happens to pass away before you do. Also, if you desire to give part of your estate to a religious, charitable or educational association, a will or trust are the only vehicles to accomplish this after your death.

If you would like assistance drafting and implementing a will or trust, please contact our office at 402-339-9550.

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