How many potential "next of kin" can you name?
"Who" is named in estate documents is so important to being able to leave them the legacy you wanted them to have. Estate administrators will do their best to track down beneficiaries and people nominated to fulfill roles in your estate's administration, but it's not always easy. (Remember "Goose" from the movie Top Gun? How would you start tracking down that person if that nickname was all you knew about them?!?)
Here's a quick quiz you can do to properly name all of the Gooses that you're related to in your life!
Quiz: Who are your potential "next of kin"?
(Give yourself 1 point for every question you can answer in full.)
1. Your name (you got this – just write your full legal name):
2. Your spouse’s name (should be easy but hey list even a spouse you are separated from because this is something to review!):
3. Any spouses who have predeceased you (this is important information and if you can provide date of death that will be very helpful):
4. Any ex-spouses with name of Court, Index #, location and date of any divorces (we need to know we have no further legal ties to any ex of yours – more information is better than less!):
5. Any children and their ages (we need to know any and all children – they have rights in your estate per NYS law and we have planning to think about!!):
(** Don't forget about your children from your blended family! **)
6. Any children who have predeceased you (an important part of knowing who has rights to your estate and my heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child):
7. Any grandchildren, and group their names under each of your children’s names (this can also affect probate and planning matters):
8. Your parents’ names (believe me, sometimes simple facts are just so important – do we have ANY red flags here that we need to address now!):
9. Your siblings (including half-siblings) (don’t forget all siblings, whether half-siblings or deceased):
10. Your nieces and nephews (we may need to know this information so let’s get it down now, if you can):
11. Your grandparents’ names (getting a bit harder but this is great to know and can come into play into probate proceedings depending on the facts at the time a person passes):
12. Your aunts and uncles (you got this!):
13. Your first cousins (a little bit of work but can be fun too):
14. Extra Credit: Add in addresses if you can!
15. Even more Extra Credit! Add in phone numbers for those closest to you!
About Your Score
If you got 13 points or more, you have a great grasp on what the Courts might call "the natural objects of your bounty", that is, your "next of kin"!
Of course, family situations can be complicated, and they're not restricted to simple biology. So, if you scored less than 13, it's not a reflection on you, but you might need to do a bit more digging into the family records.
When you deal with Surrogate's Court, you have to deal with the statutes that require your "next of kin" to be involved. As well, you are supposed to know "the natural objects of your bounty" when preparing your Will, so simply "not knowing" won't help you here.
Whatever your score, it's important to have a candid conversation with your estate planning attorney so that your wishes can be best captured in your estate planning documents.
(In my opinion, who you include in your Will and other estate documents is just as important as who you decide to exclude, and you might want to put in appropriate provisions that cover all of these inclusions and exclusions.)