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Jon Andrews
Jon Andrews, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 3118
Experience:  I deal with all levels of tax planning and controversy - from the ordinary to the complex.
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Sole ownership of assets and inheritance

Customer Question

95% of the assets of my sp[ouse and I are in his name. Is it presumed that "his" properties, stocks, retirement accounts, invetsments, etc. are jointly owned? In the case of his death, does he have to list all of these in his will, or is it presumed that I have the right of survivorship? I live in New Jersey and we file a joint incomke tax return.
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Jon Andrews replied 11 years ago.

This is really a state law question rather than a tax question. Generally speaking, if the assets are in his name and not "joint tenants with rights of survivorship", they are "his". They do not have to be individually listed for you to inherit them, but, if that is his desire, the will could say something very generic, i.e. "all properties and other assets go to my wife,_______." However, if there are significant assets and/or other potential heirs, you would be wise to do some planning. At the very least you should re-title the assets to reflect joint ownership. Your best course of action would be to see a competent attorney and make sure that everything is properly done.

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Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Jon Andrews's Post: You say thast this is a state law question. Do you know how this applies in New Jersey? Are there inheritance taxes involved if he "his" assets are left to me? Would putting "his" assets into joint ownership avoid inheritance taxes?
Expert:  Jon Andrews replied 11 years ago.

A wife can inherit OR be gifted an unlimited amount of asset value from a husband with no gift or estate tax consequences. HOWEVER, state law determines whether or not the wife is the automatic heir and, if there are other potential heirs and it is not spelled out specifically, you are likely to have a long battle over who gets what.

In New Jersey (based on my understanding), the wife will inherit assets that are actually jointly owned. Everything else passes by will or by intestacy as follows:

If the deceased was married with no children:

and that person’s parents are not living, and that person has no children, then the surviving spouse inherits everything.

If the deceased was married and has a child:

If the child is also the surviving spouse’s child, then the surviving spouse inherits up to $50,000 and ½ of the balance of the estate, and the other ½ goes to the child or children.

If the child is the offspring of the deceased and someone other than the surviving spouse, then the spouse inherits ½ of the estate, and the child inherits the other ½ of the estate.

If the deceased was married, and had no children, but one or both of the deceased’s parents are alive:

The surviving spouse inherits up to $50,000 plus ½ of the estate, and the surviving parent or parents inherit the other ½ of the estate

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