Princeton Wills Lawyer
Princeton Wills Lawyer
Everyone should consider making a will, regardless of whether you have quite a lot of property or only a few assets, especially if you are concerned about how your assets will be distributed upon your death and you want to be sure that your loved ones will receive certain pieces of property. In addition to ensuring that property can be distributed according to your wishes, a will can also allow you to name a guardian for your minor child or children if you pass away unexpectedly, and this document can allow you to choose a person you trust to manage assets for your minor child or children under those circumstances. Through a will, you can also name an executor who you are entrusting to administer your estate after you pass away.
For a will to be valid, it must meet several requirements under New Jersey law. An experienced Princeton wills lawyer at our firm can speak with you today about the process for making a will in New Jersey, and we can start working with you to create a valid will that can give you peace of mind.
Learning More About Wills in Princeton, New Jersey
A will is also known as a “last will and testament” under New Jersey law. According to New Jersey law, a last will and testament “includes any codicil and any testamentary instrument that merely appoints an executor, revokes or revises another will, nominates a guardian, or expressly excludes or limits the right of a person or class to succeed to the property of the decedent passing by intestate succession.” What this means is that the will you make—which ultimately will need to be authenticated during probate—will include any additions or revisions you make to the will and any subsequent will if you decide to revoke an existing will.
New Jersey law also explains that a last will and testament gives the person making a will—the “testator”—the right to leave property to their heirs according to the testator’s wishes outside the framework of intestate succession. In other words, by making a will, you can choose who gets your property.
What Do I Need for a Valid Princeton Will?
If you are going to make a will, it is critical to ensure that it meets all of the requirements under New Jersey law. Otherwise, if your will is not valid or if you die without a will, your property will be distributed to your surviving relatives based on the terms outlined in New Jersey intestacy laws. What do you need to ensure that your will is valid? The following are all specific requirements for wills in New Jersey:
- Testator must be at least 18 years old;
- Testator must be of sound mind;
- Will must be in writing (ideally typed);
- Will must be a physical document, such as a printed-out will on paper or, in some circumstances, a handwritten will;
- Testator must sign the will;
- Will must be witnessed by two people; and
- Two witnesses must sign the will after witnessing the testator’s signature.
Although handwritten wills (also known as “holographic” wills) can be authenticated in New Jersey and may be valid, it is always a good idea to type your will and then to print it out to ensure that all of the terms are clear. Once you print the will, you must sign that hard-copy document, and your witnesses must do the same. While a lot of business is carried out electronically, and while electronic signatures can be valid on a variety of documents, you should not assume that you can sign a will electronically or that your witnesses may sign electronically. To be clear, your witnesses should bear witness to you signing the physical copy of the document in person, and then they will sign the physical copy, as well.
Oral Wills in Princeton Are Invalid
Some states allow people to make oral wills, which are also known as “noncupative” wills. You should know that oral wills are invalid in New Jersey, and you should not expect that a will made orally will be valid for a New Jersey court. Most cases involving noncupative wills are those in which a person is dying and makes an oral will on his or her deathbed, but you should never assume that this type of declaration is sufficient. To ensure that your wishes are respected after your death, you need to make a hard-copy will that meets all other requirements listed above.
What Will Happen if I Die Without a Will in Princeton?
If you die without making a will, or if the will you made does not meet the requirements outlined under New Jersey law, then you will have died “intestate.” If you die intestate, New Jersey intestacy laws will determine how your property is distributed. Here is how New Jersey intestacy laws work when a person passes away without a valid will:
- Surviving spouse inherits everything when there is a surviving spouse and there are no surviving descendants or parents;
- Surviving descendants inherit everything when there are surviving descendants but no surviving spouse;
- Surviving spouse inherits everything when there is a surviving spouse and surviving descendants, as long as the descendants are from the marriage to the surviving spouse;
- When there is a surviving spouse and surviving descendants, but the descendants are not from the marriage to the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse will inherit 25 percent of the deceased’s property and 50 percent of the remaining balance, and then the surviving descendants will inherit what is left;
- When there is a surviving spouse and surviving parents, the spouse will inherit 25 percent of the deceased’s property and 75 percent of the remaining balance, and then the surviving parents will inherit what is left;
- Surviving parents inherit everything when there is no surviving spouse or surviving dependents; and
- Siblings will inherit everything when there is no surviving spouse, surviving parents, or surviving descendants.
Contact a Wills Lawyer in Princeton
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