How to Create a Last Will and Testament in New Jersey
A last will and testament represents that legal instrument that holds your wishes and directives to be followed upon your death. Anyone 18 years or older can prepare a last will and testament. If you are considering preparing this document, you might want to start by downloading a free New Jersey last will and testament form.
While creating will forms the foundation of estate planning, it doesn’t mean that you should get a lawyer for help. Well, unless you have some contentious matters to discuss. Otherwise, a last will filled out well and as per the requirements of code section 3B:3-1, et seq. Will be all you need to ensure that your wishes are protected and for your legacy to live on after your demise.
Unlike a living will, the last will takes over the control of your affairs (estate and children) after your death. The directives of the living will, on the other hand, will kick in when you are incapacitated or unable to act for geographical reasons. It loses its validity upon your death and your last will takes over after your death.
But, just before we look at what you need to create a valid last will and testament, let's see what happens if you die without a will.
Dying without a will
A free last will and testament in New Jersey ensures that the state respects your wishes, however, absurd they are and as long as witnesses affirm that you were of sound mind at the time of signing the will. That means that without a will, any spoken but unwritten wishes will not see the light of day. To oversee the distribution of the assets of a deceased person without a will, the state invokes intestacy laws to run the asset distribution process. Under the intestacy laws, the following things happen to your estate:
If you are survived by a spouse or a domestic partner, but without kids, then your surviving spouse will inherit everything under your name. And if you are survived by kids and no spouse, your children will inherit everything.
However, if you leave behind kids, a spouse or a domestic partner, then your estate is shared among those individuals.
Which properties are exempt from distribution?
- Jointly-held property
- Elective share of the estate
- Creating a will
- When creating a will, you have to declare that you are of legal age and that you are not creating the will under duress. As mentioned above, you must have witnesses present to affirm that you were not forced into signing the will. But, before we jump into putting down signatures, what do you need to indicate in your will?
- Clearly indicate in the introduction section that you are creating a last will and testament. This is the part that you indicate your age, sound mental state, and the fact that creating the will is on taking place on your own volition. We also recommend that you indicate that the last will you are creating (make sure it is dated) revokes the powers of previous wills or codicils under your name. The advantage of using an online form is that most of the introductory details are often laid out, and you only need to enter relevant and specific details.
Who do you trust to ensure the execution of your estate in your absence? While that person knows that they could do anything for you, it is important that you put down their name. Whether they are in the beneficiaries list or not, naming your family member, spouse, friend or even an attorney in the will controls the estate distribution process and also prevents family disputes. You could also name an alternate executor or a successor.
The main roles of an executor include managing your estate by looking through your financials and paying off debts or taxes for the estate. Once everything is in order, the executor will oversee the distribution of the estate as per your direction. For this reason, it is advisable to indicate how much every beneficiary gets in percentages or exact dollar values. For indivisible assets, be specific about who gets what.
- The job of the executor ends once all the beneficiaries affirm receipt of their share. Don’t forget that the executor will receive an official appointment by the probate court where they file the will. The appointment letter is the Surrogate court's Letters Testamentary.
Name beneficiaries or heir
- In most and regular cases, the list of heirs includes your life partner or spouse and children. However, the will gives you autonomy, and you can choose who to name as an heir and who to leave out. So, you could name a charitable organization, a friend, or your pet as other heirs to your estate.
Name a guardian for your child.
- If you have minor children and you don’t have any other natural parent to take care of them, you might want to appoint someone you trust as the guardian in your absence and until they are adults. Since this is a weighty commitment for anyone to take on, you might consider discussing with the person in mind about the situation and their willingness to step in when the need arises. Note that if you don’t appoint a guardian, the court will appoint one for you.
The first rule is realism. So, assess your property then assign the heirs a percentage of the estate. This is where you make those specific bequeaths. But, don’t include joint properties because they are exempted from distribution.
Distribution of small estates
- If you have a tiny estate, the probate court will help with the asset distribution.
- If the value of your assets is less than $20,000, your domestic partner or spouse inherits the whole lot.
- And in the absence of a domestic partner or spouse, and when the estate is less than $10,000.
Does this look like a good time to get a last will? How about you download your copy of the last will and testament form which is available to all residents of Newark, Jersey City, Atlantic City, Princeton, Trenton, or any other city of New Jersey?