10 Things To Know About Writing A Will in New Jersey

Grandparents happy they made a will

Below are 10 things you should know about writing a will. Did you know that according to an AARP survey, 2 out of 5 people in New Jersey over the age of 45 don’t have a will?

What is a Will?

A will is simply a legal document in which you, the testator, declare who will manage your estate and who will get your “stuff” when you die.

What Happens If I Don’t Have a Will?

Putting your wishes on paper helps your heirs avoid unnecessary hassles, and you gain the peace of mind knowing that a life’s worth of possessions will end up in the right hands.

If you die without a valid will, you’ll become what’s called “intestate.” That usually means your estate will be settled based on the laws of New Jersey that outline who inherits what (The Probate Statute) not according to your wishes.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to the rightful heirs. If you have a will, the process follows your wishes as spelled-out in your will. If you don’t have a will, the process follows the probate statute.

Are Insurance Policies and Retirement Accounts Covered by Wills?

Someone designated to receive any of your property is called a “beneficiary.” You normally assign a beneficiary on life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Those assets go straight to the beneficiary no matter what the will says.

Where Should I keep My Will?

In New Jersey the probate court requires your original will before it can process your estate, so it’s important to keep the document safe yet accessible. Don’t put your will in a bank safe deposit box that only you can get into. A waterproof and fireproof safe in your house is the best place to keep your will.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in New Jersey?

You can write a perfectly legal will on your own, without a lawyer, in every state including New Jersey. But should you?

You must draft a will that’s legal in your state and ensure it can stand up to scrutiny.

Do I Need My Will Notarized?

Yes. To be admitted into probate in New Jersey, your will must be notarized and it musts also be signed by two witnesses.

How To Choose Your Executor

The Executor of your Will is the person you name who will be responsible for settling your estate upon your passing. Choose someone trustworthy and capable of handling the financial, legal and moral obligations required to complete the process. Note that you can also name a Co-Executor, and many people choose to name an alternate in case their original is unable or unwilling to take on the task.

Who Can Be A Beneficiary Under My Will?

The beneficiaries you name are those who will benefit from your estate. They are sometimes also called “heirs” to your estate. They will inherit money, property, valuables and other belongings according to your wishes as outlined in your Will.

Minor Children and Naming a Guardian

If you have a minor child, one of the most important reasons to make a Will is to name someone you trust to raise, take care of and be responsible for your child.

A Guardian physically cares for your child, provides food, clothing, shelter and medical care and makes all decisions that you could make about your child’s education, health and welfare. A Guardian can also manage the child’s inheritance until he or she turns 18.

Naming a Guardian allows your child to move under the Guardian’s care more quickly and avoids costs and delays due to challenges or disputes. This makes the transition easier for your child, gives him or her stability and makes sure that someone you know and trust will take care of him or her.


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Todd Murphy

Todd Murphy is an estate planning lawyer in Morristown New Jersey where he helps modern families of all ages plan for the future.

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