Friendsgiving and Estate Planning

Carving the Christmas Turkey

Friendsgiving is the celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends. This “holiday” usually takes place on the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, since Thanksgiving is usually reserved for family gatherings.

In the past few years or so, hosting a Friendsgiving among friends has become a standard part of the celebration for many young adults. Some are celebrating Friendsgiving because they are far away from family on Thanksgiving, but near friends. Others treat it as an additional celebration, but one that is just for friends.  

Friendships are important, and as families themselves have changed, and nonrelatives have assumed family-like roles in people’s lives, more and more people think about their friends while considering their estate planning. Estate planning is not just about distributing your things after you are dead, but it is about recognizing the relationships you have created while living – by stating what you wish to leave and to whom, whether to a family member, friend, your beloved charity or even your pet. To do that you need to know how to control the distribution of your assets according to your wishes.

Since the law dictates how property must be distributed in the absence of other instructions, such as when there is no Last Will and Testament; there are mechanisms that allow you to ensure that people who you choose, receive things you leave for them. So, would you rather wish to pass your belongings to the people most likely to enjoy or need them, or just leave everything to your genetic family, even if you do not know/like them? 

Inheritance laws do not recognize automatic distributions of your assets to anyone other than your direct family. The law will ensure that your spouse and children are provided for first, followed by parents, grandkids, and then other relatives. Even if you have no living relatives, your belongings will not go to your friends; they will go to the government. So, if you want someone other than your family or the government to take anything from your estate after death, you have to make that wish known.

You can leave items to people in your will or via a living trust, or you can give them away while you are still alive, but whatever you do – you must plan now while you are still alive and of “sound mind.” 

If you think your family might fight the transfer of your property to your friends, they may have a legal right to do so. A gift given during your life, when you are sane and able to make your own decisions, is much less likely to be subject to any challenge, than any gift you try to make after death. That is why your Will needs to be very specific and your distributions cannot contradict the law. 

In many states, you can make a separate list of items with information about and who you want to inherit them, then refer to that list in your Will. You will not be able to distribute money or other intangible property this way, but actual items of sentimental value can go to whom you deem most worth it. 

As laws pertaining to estate planning and inheritance rights vary between jurisdictions, for the best advice on estate planning and inheritance law, you should contact an attorney in your area.

About teperlaw

I am an attorney practicing family law, immigration and wills and estate planning. You can find out more about me and my firm by visiting my website at: 106 W. Franklin Ave. Pennington, NJ 08534 (609) 737-3030
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