Legal Blog

Like It or Not: Everyone Without a Will Ends Up with an Estate Plan

From The Desk Of Herb Fineburg

estateplanningFor those of you who have no estate plan, you may be surprised to know that your federal and state governments already have a plan for you and your family. First, for those with no plan, the United States government will be one of the largest beneficiaries of your estate, just in case you thought you were leaving all of your assets to your family.

The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2016 in a recent article, “Happy Anniversary! Estate Tax Turns 100”, page B7, reminds us all that with planning it is possible to exclude the U.S. Treasury as a beneficiary of your estate, in whole or in part. The WSJ wrote that “for decades, the estate tax has had features prompting some experts to label it [a] “voluntary” [tax] – meaning that planning techniques can reduce or eliminate [the estate tax].”

Next, if you die without a will (i.e., intestate), each state has intestate succession or intestacy laws establishing who will inherit your assets when you die. For example, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey you might be surprised to know that your spouse may not inherit all of your assets. Consider the intestacy laws in both states where under certain circumstances your spouse will inherit a little more than just 50% of your estate and the balance will pass to your children.

The Gallup Poll did a survey on May 16, 2016 after the April 21, 2016 death of Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) whose legacy will not only be his music but also what happens when someone dies without a will. The Gallup Poll notes that “the majority of Americans report they do not have a [will]. Even a substantial minority of older and upper-income Americans – roughly three in 10 of those age 65 years and older, and nearly four in 10 of those with households incomes of $100,000 or more – – say they do not have a will”.

Snoop Dogg told Business Insider why he doesn’t have a will:  “I don’t give a f— when I’m dead. This is goin’ on while I’m gone, you know?” You will hopefully leave many fond memories for your family, but unless you emulate Snoop Dogg’s sense of family values, make sure your “legacy” is not leaving a mess of your estate for your family to clean up.

If we can answer any questions you may have about estate and inheritance taxes or protecting your assets for your heirs, please feel free to contact us.



Herbert A. Fineburg, a firm shareholder and co-managing principal of the firm’s Philadelphia office, concentrates his practice in the areas of Business Law and Transactions, Mergers and AcquisitionsEstate planningEstates and Trusts,  and Tax Consulting. He is recognized as one of Philadelphia’s most respected business lawyers whose substantial knowledge of tax law provides clients with strategic and cost-saving benefits in connection with commercial transactions, taxation and wills, trusts and estates matters. Known for his ability to resolve complicated matters effectively, Mr. Fineburg has assisted businesses and individuals with the organization of their finances, business and real estate affairs, and the structure of their assets (i.e., in LLCs, partnerships, corporations, trusts or joint ownership). He has substantial expertise in the preparation of buy-sell agreements for co-owners who are family members or are unrelated business partners. In addition, to working on bank financings, business contracts and employment matters for his business clients, Mr. Fineburg also provides advice on business acquisitions and sales, and the resolution of shareholder and partner disputes and buy-outs.


Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With over 120 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our ten offices in the Mid-Atlantic region serve clients in the entire state of Maryland, the Washington DC metropolitan area, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York City.  At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our client’s confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.

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