New Jersey Will Lawyer
Fort Lee Estate Planning Attorney
Sooner rather than later, you’ll want to arrange how someone will manage your assets at your incapacity and death. You can do this through estate planning. One of the most fundamental aspects of estate planning is creating a will, which is a legal document containing instructions for what to do with some or all of your property at your death. It may seem daunting, but an experienced estate planning attorney will know what to ask to understand your situation and best guide you through the process of planning based on your current and future goals. Here’s more about wills, including how a New Jersey wills lawyer at Choi Law Firm can help prepare one to meet your unique needs.
What Happens If You Don’t Have A Will?
If you die without a will in the United States, probate court distributes your property according to intestacy law. In New Jersey, a court considers several factors when determining how to distribute your property via intestate succession. These factors include whether you have living children (and who the other parent of those children is), parents, a spouse, or other close relatives when you die.
Intestate Succession Chart
What Is Per Stripes?
Per stripes simply means that the inheritance will go to the deceased beneficiary’s heirs if the beneficiary is deceased. So, for example, if you had a daughter that pre-deceased you or passed at the same time as you, her children would receive her inheritance in equal shares.
Laws For Making A Will In New Jersey
New Jersey law requires an individual to be 18 years old and of sound mind to make a will. The legal definition of sound mind means the person is reasonable and able to judge an ordinary subject, like other rational adults. Additionally, in New Jersey, you must have a hard copy for your will, meaning it cannot be an audio, video, or other digital file type. New Jersey allows for handwritten wills, but this is not recommended because courts easily invalidate them.
Checklist For Making A Will In New Jersey
- Decide what property to include in your will.
- Decide who will inherit your property.
- Choose an executor to handle your estate upon your passing.
- Choose a guardian for your children, if applicable.
- Choose someone to manage your children’s property, if applicable.
- Have an attorney draft your estate planning documents.
- Sign your estate planning documents pursuant to New Jersey laws.
- Safely store your documents.
Decide What Property To Include In Your Will
Some of the assets you might include in a will include:
- Real Property
- Intangible Personal Property
- Tangible Property
Making a list of all your valuable assets will help ensure that you do not leave out anything significant. Your estate planning attorney should go over all of your property to determine which of it can and should be distributed by will.
Real property includes any real estate you own, such as your home, farmland, or buildings. You can pass your real property to beneficiaries through a will, but you’ll want to discuss this with an estate planning attorney first, as there may be better alternatives for passing property to beneficiaries, such as using a trust.
Cash assets include money in checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, and any cash you may hide around the house. In a will, you can decide who gets what based on percentages or hard numbers, such as:
- John Smith, Son – $50,000 in cash assets
- John Smith, Son – 50% of cash assets
Intangible Personal Property
Intangible personal property includes stocks, bonds, forms of business ownership, intellectual property, royalties, patents, copyrights, etc. A designated beneficiary form generally distributes investment accounts, but if you fail to fill it out or elect not to fill it out, make sure you cover it in your will.
Additionally, make sure to provide your attorney with all pertinent information concerning any businesses you own.
Tangible Personal Property
Tangible personal property includes all valuable objects such as cars, artwork, jewelry, furniture, etc. Many people keep a memorandum of the items they desire to go to specific people because tangible personal property generally changes regularly.
It’s important to remember that any property not specifically distributed at your direction through a legal document, whether a will or otherwise, gets distributed through intestate succession, as described above.
Decide Who Will Inherit Your Property
You need to know who you want to own your property to make a will. There is no one specific that you need to name. It can be anyone from your children, nieces and nephews, friends, charities, and schools. You can even put certain conditions on the money. For example, if you give it to a charity, you can specify that it must be used for a certain project or fund.
What Is An Executor?
You want to choose someone you trust to be your executor because that person is responsible for handling your assets upon your death until distribution completes. The law does not require an executor to be a financial expert, but executors must be patient, honest, and willing to deal not only with the emotions of your passing but also with a big pile of paperwork.
The executor must round up your assets, sell your property if that was your direction, make sure your estate pays all its taxes and debts, and then distribute the assets in the manner dictated by your will.
How To Protect Your Children In A Will
If you have children, a will can include a children’s trust (or have assets payable to a trust) to ensure that your children are taken care of upon your death. Moreover, a will can identify a guardian, which is someone who takes care of your minor or incapacitated children upon your death. You’ll want to be sure that the potential guardian understands this role and is comfortable taking the role on.
Naming a guardian ensures that your children end up with someone you trust and that there is no fighting. For example, suppose all four of your children’s grandparents are alive, and all grandparents want to be guardians. If you haven’t specified a guardian in your will or other legal documents, then the grandparents might fight over who gets to be guardians.
With a will, you can dictate how your assets may be used for the benefit of your children and when those assets will be distributed to them for their control. Most individuals do not wish to distribute the money outright to their children until they become responsible adults. If you have concerns along these lines, then you’ll want to discuss whether a will or an alternative legal arrangement, such as a trust, is the best mechanism for distributing assets to your children.
What Documents Will An Attorney Draft For You?
Proper estate planning often involves more than just creating a will. For example, you need to dictate who has control of your medical and financial decisions if you become incapable of handling them during your life – a will does not control this issue. So, in addition to your will, an experienced attorney will also draft powers of attorney.
Medical Power Of Attorney (For Health)
A medical power of attorney is a legal document that appoints someone as your representative and allows them to act on your behalf concerning medical decisions if you become too ill or are otherwise incapacitated. Generally, your significant other or next of kin will have the ability to make a medical decision in an emergency in which you are incapable of deciding. For example, if you do not have a medical power of attorney and are unconscious, your husband or wife can tell the doctor whether to perform a dangerous surgery on you.
Limited, General Powers Of Attorney (For Property)
You can give someone power of attorney over your finances and property. You can have that power go into effect immediately or upon your incapacity. A power of attorney can be limited (for certain property or transactions) or general (all-encompassing). The person who is authorized in a power of attorney – known as the agent or attorney-in-fact – will be able to pay your bills and keep your investments in line, among other things, if you are unwilling or unable to make decisions for yourself. Like with the medical power of attorney, this property-based power of attorney will terminate upon your passing.
Laws For Signing A Will
New Jersey law provides that for your will to be valid, you must sign or acknowledge it in front of two witnesses, and the witnesses must sign your will within a reasonable time after you signed it. While an interested party may witness your will in New Jersey, experts suggest that you only have disinterested parties acting as witnesses to avoid any claims of influence or coercion.
Safely Store Your Will
Once your will is signed, you will want to make sure it is safely stored because providing the court with the original will make the probate process far less cumbersome to initiate. Most law firms will keep their clients’ wills in their safety deposit boxes to ensure they are not lost or misplaced.
New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney For Wills
Is it time for you to make a will and adequately set out an estate plan? If so, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Choi Law Firm. Our lawyers in Fort Lee will take the time to understand your needs and create a will and other necessary documents to get your estate plan in the right shape. Get in touch with Choi Law Firm by calling 201-482-4825 or contacting us online for a confidential consultation.
“I always felt that they were genuinely fighting for me; truly looking out for my best interests."
I am very grateful for Sandra Choi and her team. They were kind, compassionate, thorough and very professional throughout the entire process of my case. I always felt that they were listening to my concerns and interests and provided all the professional advice and answers to my questions that I needed to feel confident about my decisions.”
“One of the best things about Ms. Choi is that she is caring and listens carefully to understand your situation."
Sandra Choi is attentive, kind, thoughtful, and professional. She was thorough and well-prepared throughout my case, and I was impressed by her honesty and work ethic. Ms. Choi and her team were helpful and responsive to my questions and concerns, and she certainly exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend Ms. Choi and her team.