When you pass away, your loved ones need to know what you intend for them to do with the money and property you leave behind. A little Estate planning now can help them navigate the probate process as quickly and painlessly as possible in the future. That is the power and utility of a properly prepared last will and testament.
If a legal will is precise and tailored to your specific situation, there can be no question as to how your money and property are to be distributed to your loved ones and other beneficiaries at the time of your death. However, before you prepare a will, it is instructive to consider the information to be included, as well as the necessary requirements to make the will valid.
What information should a will contain?
The information in your will should include information about your property, the people to whom you want to leave property (the devisees or beneficiaries) and specific directions on how to allocate or resolve your property. The following are examples of what can and should be included in your will:
- An executor, who will be responsible for probating the will and administering your estate
- A guardian for your minor children
- A trusted person to care for the money/property being left to minor children
- A person to care for pets
- Allocations for charities
- Instructions on how to settle debts
- Beneficiaries (“Devisees”) who will receive specific property or assets
****SPECIAL NOTE: Although many people are tempted to include specific instructions in their will regarding burial, cremation, etc., such instructions should not be included in your will, because a will is typically not read until it is probated–at least 10 days after your death, according to law.
What makes a will valid?
While you can generate a do-it-yourself will from the internet, that type of “cookie cutter” approach does not typically work well for most people, who correctly prefer to have an experienced attorney draft this vital document. Remember, if you choose to go it alone, you may not discover your Will is invalid or not perfectly suited to your needs or wishes until it is too late. An attorney will ask important questions before the will is finalized to be certain that all aspects of your estate are considered and addressed within the margins of your will.
New Jersey law requires you to be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind when making a will. The will must also be in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two other people who are at least 18, who must sign the will as well, attesting to the fact they saw you execute the will and that you were not acting under any duress or coercion.
Lastly, properly prepared and executed wills are always notarized, with a “Self Proving Affidavit”. The Affidavit insures that everyone executed the will in each other’s presence, while the notarization guarantees everyone’s signature is true and valid. Assuming the will is otherwise valid, the will with a notarized Self Proving Affidavit can be submitted for probate by itself. Without it, you must produce at least one of the signing witnesses at the Surrogate’s Court when the will is submitted for probate. This is often difficult, if not impossible, as witnesses may have since moved or died.
The lesson is a simple yet important one—leave the preparation of this critical document in the hands of an experienced attorney. Your family and loved ones will be thankful you did.
Create your will and protect your family’s future
When you are ready to create your estate plan, the attorneys at Mariano & Coiro, P.C. (with over 36 years of experience in this area of the law), are here to help you understand your options and address all legal aspects of your will. Your will should be unique to you and your family’s goals for the future. You may call our office at 732-860-7620 or send us an email to schedule a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL consultation with our attorneys.