What is a Will? Should I Make One?
Although it is often an unpleasant thing to think about, deciding what will happen to your assets after you are gone is very important, and relieves a large amount of stress from your loved ones. Making a Will ensures that your wishes regarding your property will be properly followed.
A Will, also referred to as a ‘Last Will and Testament,’ is a legal document that dictates what will happen to a person’s assets upon their death. The creator of a Will, called a testator, can be anyone over the age of eighteen. In New Jersey, a Will is considered valid only if it is signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it themselves, as well as other formal procedures which, if not followed correctly, can invalidate the will.
A testator can use their Will to:
- Select an executor, or the person who will carry out the instructions in the Will. This can be an attorney, family member, or any other trusted person. If the testator does not name an executor in their Will, the court will appoint one.
- Leave their property to people or organizations of their choice, with specific instructions as to distribution.
- Name a guardian to care for any minor children.
- Name a trustee, or a person who will manage any assets you leave to any minor children until they come of age. This arrangement is known as a trust.
What Happens If A Person Dies Without Making a Will?
If a person dies without creating a Will, their assets will be distributed according to the New Jersey laws of intestacy. These laws specifically state who their assets will automatically pass to, and while it varies depending on their person’s family situation upon their death, it starts with their spouse or children. If the deceased has no spouse or children, it will go their parents, followed by their siblings, and then on to more distant relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. If the state cannot find any living relative, no matter how distant, they will escheat to the state of NJ, who will claim the remaining assets.
Contact us Today to Discuss Will Preparation
The New Jersey Intestacy laws may not align with your wishes, which is why making a Will is so important. A Will can embody your specific wishes for distribution of your assets among your family, friends, or charitable organizations. You decide who is in control of the process. A Will also prevents your loved ones from having to make some very difficult decisions in an already difficult time, which can lead to hurt feelings or even legal disputes. To ensure that your Will is complete and legally sound, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced NJ estate lawyer. Contact Himelman & Himelman today to discuss all aspects of Will preparation.