I don’t want my sister to get anything when I die. What can I do?

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Q. I’m no longer getting along with my sister, who is my sole beneficiary. I have no kids but I do have two nephews, though I’m not sure I want to leave anything to them. If I chose not to have any new beneficiaries, what would happen if I die? I don’t want my sister to get anything.
— Sibling

A. We’re sorry to hear about your relationship with your sister.

There are some steps you can take here.

If you’ve named your sister as the beneficiary under your will, you can change your will to provide for your nephews — or anyone else — instead of your sister at any time before your death or prior mental incapacity, said Jonathan A. Schwartz is an attorney in the taxation and trusts & estates practice groups at Einhorn Barbarito Frost & Botwinick in Denville.

He said if you die without a will, New Jersey has laws that determine who will receive your assets.

“If you die without a will and with no surviving parents, spouse or descendants, your assets would be divided among the descendants of your parents `by representation,’ which generally means that assets are divided at the generation closest to your parents where at least one member is living,” he said. “In this case, if your sister is your only sibling — living or predeceased — she would receive all your assets.”

Schwartz said it’s important that you have a will to prevent your assets from being distributed to your sister under New Jersey law.

You should also be sure to update the beneficiary designations on any retirement accounts or insurance policies as those assets will not pass under your will, he said.

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This story was originally published on May 3, 2023.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.