Your will is the most basic component of your estate plan, but it doesn’t cover all your primary needs. In this official legal document, you can state a lot of things about your intentions, such as who you intend to take over as the executor of your estate and who you’d like to have the responsibility of caring for your minor children if something happens to you.
But it’s a mistake to assume that your will encompasses every aspect of your planning. Leaving your will as the only document might not accomplish all the goals you intended, leaving your loved ones to handle the rest.
Many things pass to loved ones or intended organizations outside of your will. Some do this by default based on the ownership of those assets at the time, but others will require you to fill out additional paperwork. This includes your IRA or your life insurance policy, where you’ll need to direct the managers of those accounts how to handle the transfer of your assets or funds.
In addition to those accounts, there are other things your will cannot accomplish, such as:
Adding privacy to your estate plan. A will is public record in your state, so other people can legally request access to that documentation and see what’s in your estate.
Pass on property designated as joint with right of survivorship. This will automatically go to the joint owner when you pass away.
Pass on property that technically belongs to a living trust. The trust and the trustee are responsible for adhering to the terms of the created trust in these circumstances.
If you have more questions about what a will can do and cannot do, run these questions by an experienced estate planner today.
One of the most common reasons for a will contest are claims about testamentary capacity. These are usually brought by heirs who allege that the person who created the will did not have testamentary capacity to create that document. If this challenge is successful in court, the will is deemed invalid.
Capacity is a general term and one that is not subject to a precise definition, but generally refers to someone not being in a sound mind to understand their estate planning documents or decisions. In these cases, documents executed by a person in this state are not valid.
Multiple factors might be explored to determine whether or not a person is of sound mind at the time they executed their will. This can include information from the doctor regarding the testator’s mental state at that point in time, whether or not the testator understands the nature and extent of the property they own and whether or not the testator understands the ordinary affairs of life. It falls to the person who is alleging that the creator did not have testamentary capacity to illustrate this in court.
This makes it all the more important to ensure that when crafting your own estate planning documents, you have the support of an experienced estate planning attorney. An estate planning lawyer can help you consider the many different elements that go into crafting your estate plan and special steps that you can take to help minimize the chances that your loved ones will file a will contest after you pass away.
Many people have different conceptions about what is required to create a will. Mistakes made in the will creation or signing process can prove problematic for your loved ones so it’s important to educate yourself first and to schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer.
Although you do not need an attorney to create a New Jersey will, you might want to speak with an attorney if you are concerned about taking specific steps like disinheriting someone or you are worried about family members contesting your will. The basic requirements for signing a will in New Jersey include:
This document must be signed in front of two witnesses and,
Per New Jersey statutes 3(b):3-2, the witnesses must sign the will within a reasonable time after the testator has created or acknowledged it.
You are not required to notarize your will to make it legal. New Jersey does, however, allow you to make your will self-proving and you will need to obtain a notary in the event that you wish to do that.
If you want your will to be a self-proving will, since it might speed up probate and the court is eligible to accept the will without contacting the signature witnesses, you and your witnesses will need to go to a notary and sign an affidavit that states who each of you are and that you all knew that you were signing a will.
Have you had significant changes in your life circumstances that are making you rethink your existing estate planning documents? You are not alone. There are many different reasons why you might contemplate updating your New Jersey will.
In any of these cases, make sure you set aside time to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer in New Jersey about your options. You may want to make changes to your will if:
You’ve adopted a child or had a child since you first created your documents.
You’ve gotten divorced or married since initially creating this will.
A personal representative or trustee passes away before you.
You have acquired a property that you wish to pass in a very particular manner rather than inside the terms of your will.
The process matters when you make updates to your will. Unfortunately, many people believe they can informally change their document by doing things like marking up an existing will or including an additional note, but these attempts are often unsuccessful. You have two options to update your will in New Jersey. The first of these is writing a new document and the second is adding an amendment to the will. If you are changing numerous terms inside the will, it is recommended that you create a new one to replace that older document. An amendment is used when you want to make a relatively straightforward change to a will. Your estate planning attorney can be the first one to help you update or revoke your will.
A knowledgeable New Jersey estate planning attorney can talk to you about whether an amendment or a freshly drafted will is the most appropriate way to view this situation. Schedule a consultation today with a New Jersey estate planning lawyer.
An online will makes it simple to be under the impression that you can complete all of your estate planning in a matter of just a few hours and be completely protected if something happens to you. However, as any estate planning lawyer can tell you, review of hundreds of estate planning documents that have been created in a variety of ways can show some of the gaps in creating an online will.
You don’t want your loved ones to find out that you made estate planning mistakes, which is why it is recommended that you think carefully about whether or not an online will service is right for you.
What seems like a minor mistake, omission or wrong term used in an online will created document could become very problematic for your loved ones who will be on the receiving end of all of these problems when you pass away. While attorneys might be on staff for online will creation services, you might need specific help to create your personal documents.
This includes thinking about your individual goals, your beneficiaries, your assets and the tax implications of all the choices that you make. The support of an experienced estate planning lawyer can guide you through this process and ensure that you have considered all of the most important aspects of drafting your own will.
While some people might be able to use an online will service to get started or cover their basic estates, the risks of making a mistake could be costly for your loved ones.
The support of an attorney is instrumental in answering these key questions and giving you peace of mind that when something happens to you, your loved ones will be able to have a clear path towards resolving your estate. Think about both incapacity planning and planning for your assets after you pass away by leveraging the services of an estate planning lawyer.
The pandemic has opened many people’s eyes to how unexpected health circumstances can change the scope of the foreseeable future for you and your family members. If you’ve been putting off creating a will, here are a couple of tips to finally get that important document done. First of all, think about who you are doing it for.
Yes, your will is your document determining you will pass on assets but it’s really your beneficiaries or your heirs who will ultimately benefit from the work you do in creating it. You are potentially saving your beneficiaries from expensive costs and delays of hiring a lawyerafter the fact to try to sort out your estate. Even many people who have procrastinated on their estate planning can see the positive benefits of thinking about how it could serve your loved ones better in the future. If you’re finding yourself demotivated to approach it on your own, think about helping your family. Another way to jump into the act of creating your will is to visualize what might happen without it.
Thinking about worst-case scenarios can spur some people into action. Without an estate plan your family could wind up in court determining who takes care of your minor children. Furthermore, state law will determine who inherits your belongings and the distribution might not be the way that you intended for it to look. Avoiding these common challenges are big reasons why it is beneficial to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney.
Creating a will doesn’t have to be difficult or take a long time. Make sure that you have a list of all of your assets to the best of your knowledge before sitting down with your estate planning lawyer to talk through some of the aspects of creating your will.
An easy way to hold yourself accountable is to just set up a meeting with a lawyer. This step alone gives you a chance to get it on your calendar and off of a revolving to do list.
It might seem like an initial gut reaction to challenge a will that you don’t believe is in line with what a parent or other relative had told you prior to passing away. It is important to realize that there are circumstances in which you are legally eligible to challenge a will but this is not necessarily the same thing as knowing when it is appropriate to challenge a will. You could risk spending a lot of time and money for the result of being completely disinherited depending on the terms inside that will.
You may be eligible to challenge the will of a deceased person but the outcome of this case could be very uncertain. First of all, you must have a basis for the challenge.
You must show that there was something wrong about the conditions under which the will was made or something wrong with the will itself. For example, you might argue that the will doesn’t meet formal requirements, that the will maker created it under suspicious conditions or that the will maker didn’t have the legal capacity to create a will. You could argue undue influence, fraud or mistake, lack of capacity or a flaw in document requirements.
Challenges are handled in probate and each state has unique laws about the procedures for a will challenge and these can even vary from one county to another. If you challenge a will that contains a section known as a no contest clause, you could risk losing any inheritance that would have otherwise been available to you through the will.
Plenty of wills contain such a no contest clause which means that anyone who attempts to file a will challenge could be completely disinherited. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer if you are curious about adding a no-contest clause to your own will.
Are you thinking about using a will? It is one of the most important estate planning tools and yet is also one that is frequently overlooked by people who could benefit from a will and other estate planning strategies. One of the biggest myths about estate planning is that a will oversees the distribution of each one of your individual assets.
A will allows you to establish how your belongings should be distributed. Whether it’s family heirlooms, a vehicle or something else, wills do have limitations, however. The will has control over the assets that are in the person’s individual name alone. If an owner has joint accounts or accounts listed with beneficiaries on them, the will has no controlling power over these accounts. This is a lesson that many people have had to learn the hard way when their loved ones expected to receive benefits outlined for them in the will but instead, these materials were passed on according to the beneficiary designation forms filed directly with appropriate companies.
Many different types of companies and accounts do use beneficiary designations that override what is established in the original will. These include retirement accounts, certain types of brokerage accounts and life insurance policies. A regular review of the beneficiary designations on these policies is helpful for figuring out whether they are outdated or include a former spouse. Since the only information that those companies have to pass on your assets are in the form of beneficiary designations, you must protect yourself by regular review of these materials.
Furthermore, you’ll want to establish a primary as well as a contingent beneficiary. The biggest reason for doing this is because if something happens to your primary beneficiary, you will want someone else to be able to receive those assets quickly and effectively.
Basic trusts and wills are value estate planning tools that essentially assure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. If you do not have estate planning documents like this in place, you could make mistakes that could leave your heirs paying the price.
This also increases the chances that your heirs may argue about who has a rightful claim over the property included in your estate, and you are essentially handing over the opportunity to make decisions about these issues to the state.
The state may not come to a conclusion about what is in your best interest or the — what is in your beneficiaries best interest or what you might have listed yourself. Properly written trusts and wills go a long way towards articulating your individual goals and giving you a clear path going forward. If you do not have an experienced estate planning attorney to help you with these various documents, you could be exposed to a number of different challenges.
Properly written trusts and wills should be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure these strategies are still in line with your individual needs. The support of an extended planning attorney during this time is extremely valuable for identifying possible problems.
You may not need to necessarily record a trust although an important component of your trust strategy is to fund it after you have put it together. Far too many people stop after the establishment of a trust and fail to follow through with the funding. There are many different estate planning concepts included in the answer to the question about why a will needs to be recorded or filed. When you leave a will, you leave a clear set of instructions that help to determine how your property is distributed to your heirs after you pass away.
Someone must have the authority to transfer this property and this authority is granted by a court after the will is appropriately filed. The process of presenting the official will triggers the beginning of the probate process. A trust, however, is an entity that is generated when a trustee and a settlor enter into a trust agreement. A person who does not control the trust may have more challenges than a person who establishes themselves as a key player in the trust. Although you can’t touch or see a trust as you would a printed will, this is a legally recognizable entity that contains some distribution instructions after you pass away.
However, the court does not have the authority to grant the settlor’s final instructions included in a trust. This is a major departure from a will. Since the trust can survive the settlor and the trustee is granted the authority in such an agreement under state law, no court involvement may be required. Schedule a consultation today with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn more about your options with regard to estate planning.
You and your spouse might have the same intentions for your future estate planning, but there’s plenty of good reason to set aside your own will for the purpose of protecting your loved ones. You need to ensure you have the right documents to protect your interests and plans.
When putting together a will for a husband and a wife, your estate planning attorney will probably recommend that each person has their own will. Although a married couple may reference a will as a joint document, the word will in the New Jersey probate code is usually used in the singular tense to refer to the last will and testament of a woman or a man. Establishing an individual will is extremely important particularly as your life circumstances change.
Although there is history for joint wills in New Jersey, it is not entirely clear how this would work unless both parties passed away the same time, such as in an accident. Because of this, you may wish to articulate similar goals as your spouse in your own individual will but it is powerful and preferred that you have your own estate planning document. You and your spouse can sit down and discuss the goals that you intend to accomplish and putting together a last will and testament together.
There are so many different myths out there surrounding the process of estate planning that it is often too late after someone realizes that a mistake has been made. You may have experienced a loved one who has passed away and left inadequate estate planning instructions. These can be catastrophic and extremely difficult emotionally for family members to handle in the wake of grief.
For this reason, you need to engage in the process of estate planning early and update your estate plan on a regular basis. One common mistake that people make is thinking of their will as their only tool and shield against probate. Many people are under the impression that if they have a will that they do not need to go through the court system or probate.
Revocable living trusts are a tool that enable you to avoid probate; however, the revocable trust is not effective unless your assets are retitled into the trust name. If you hold the assets in your name alone without a beneficiary designation then the assets are distributed in accordance with the terms of your will.
Before any assets can be collected or distributed with the help of your executor, you have to go through the court system and probate. You may be able to express who is eligible to receive what in your will but this situation could still end up in the courts determining the distribution of assets. It is much better to engage in the process of estate planning now by scheduling a consultation with an attorney who can walk you through the pros and cons of various tools and ensure that the strategies you select are in line with your personal needs and wishes for the future.
As the most basic of estate planning documents, most people will benefit from a will. There are a number of different goals that can be accomplished by establishing this tool and it may become the sole component of your estate plan or it may work in conjunction with other tools and strategies. First of all, your will provides for the direction of distributing your assets to beneficiaries in the family after you pass away. An attorney can be utilized to customize its provisions.
You are also enabled to appoint a personal representative to account for your liabilities, taxes, final expenses, and assets as well as distributing your remaining assets. A will is the only way to designate guardians for your minor children. If something happens to you, a judge may still have to approve this appointment but you will have articulated your wishes. If there are any minor children, you might also establish a trust to manage assets for them in conjunction with the will. A will has to be filed in probate court in order to remain effective. This is the judicial probate as your judicial process for managing the assets to transfer them effectively if you pass away or for managing assets if you are incapacitated.
A court is responsible for overseeing the distribution of assets and payment of liabilities. Typically, an executor will need to employ an attorney. Although your will is an important component of your overall estate plan, it is not the only tool that you may wish to use. Your unique circumstances will dictate what you need to use in order to accomplish your estate planning goals and scheduling a consultation today with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is the only way to have the peace of mind that someone is working on your behalf and that you have the appropriate tools to help you if you become incapacitated or suddenly pass away.
Doing all of the necessary work to put your things in order and to ensure that you have carefully considered all of the different tools and strategies that can be used to accomplish your estate planning goals is only a piece of the puzzle. It is equally important to consider the many different tools and how you will be able to share these with your loved ones. If something were to happen to you unexpectedly, would your family members know where to locate the necessary information?
For most people, the answer is no. While many people understand the value of putting together an estate plan and ensuring that it is in a safe location such as a safe deposit box, it is common for individuals to put these items in a safe place and then to forget where that safe location is. While you’re assuming that you may never do that, unfortunately, many different estate planning attorneys can share their experience of digging through old boxes and storage looking for a copy of a living will or a power of attorney for people who would have said the same thing. In a case where a client only executes one copy of a will, it should also be copied and stored in several safe locations.
Furthermore, your family members must know where to access these details if something were to happen to you unexpectedly. No one anticipates being in the position of having to put together estate planning documents, however, articulating these in a safe deposit box in a safe location within your home such as a safe that is protected from fire and in your attorney’s office gives your loved ones the necessary materials to take action as soon as possible if something were to happen to you unexpectedly.
In the event that you want to ensure that your spouse gets access to your wealth after your death, this may be referred to as an ‘I love you’ will. In this situation your spouse will receive the assets outright and it will initially appear as if those assets will be handled according to the spouse’s current estate plan when he or she passes away.
However, that surviving spouse could alter their estate plan at any time. That means that any verbal agreements about what will happen with those assets could disappear immediately.
There are several other negative aspects of ‘I love you’ wills that should prompt you to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney about other strategies. These include:
These wills will still have to go through the probate process.
Basic planning could mean very little or no asset protection.
Basic plans put more assets into survivor’s estate, possibly leading to increased taxes.
Inadvertent disinheritance can occur.
Conservatorship or guardianship involvement may be necessary.
A lifetime beneficiary trust is a better option than outright inheritance because it avoids all of the disadvantages associated with ‘I love you’ wills. Your New Jersey estate planning lawyer can help you with this process.
One of the most common ways for a will contest to emerge is to have a track record of changing or revoking your will. This is not to say that you cannot update materials you’ve put together previously, but simply that you should do so with care. Your will should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it’s still in line with your wishes, but it’s important to verify that you’re following the best practices in the industry when revoking your will so that it would be difficult for someone to argue down the road that your current will is invalid.
One of the primary reasons why you might want to change your will is because your relationship with charities, friends, and family members are capable of changing all the time. When you initially put your will together, it may be part of a clear plan to leave behind certain assets to particular people. Over time, however, these needs may evolve. An old will that is mostly full of outdated information should be revoked. The good news you should be aware of is that it’s typically easier to revoke a will or to change one than to create one from scratch. Sitting down with your estate planning attorney can help prompt questions about why you want to revoke the old will and what your new document should contain instead.
Revoking a will makes the old one invalid. It’s a good idea to set up an appointment with your estate planning lawyer if you intend to move forward with this step. If you do not put together a valid will, people may allege after you pass away that your new will is inaccurate and therefore your old will may still remain viable for pursuing the distribution of your property. Making a big change like revoking your will is something that should be done with the guidance of an experienced estate planning lawyer in NJ who can tell you more about what you need to consider both when terminating the old will and putting together the new one. Details matter in this process, so it’s important to have a lawyer you can trust.
Many people express discomfort when it comes to talking about their own mortality or putting together an estate plan. Many more individuals simply believe that they do not have enough assets to warrant an estate plan. Remember, however, that putting together these critical documents and planning strategies is about more than what will happen to your assets after you pass away.
It is also about planning for incapacity as a result of a disabling event. Unfortunately, far too many people fail to include this in their long-range planning and therefore expose themselves and their beneficiaries to unnecessary confusion and frustration. People make plenty of excuses about why they do not engage in their estate planning. According to a Gallup survey completed last year, half of all Americans do not have a will.
Thankfully, there are some critical steps you can take in order to make this easier. First of all, it is impossible to have a detailed conversation until you have inventoried all of the property that you do have. You should also learn which of these assets fall outside of the scope of any will. These may include a 401(k) account, a life insurance policy or an IRA balance. Use a celebrity’s passing or a friend’s passing away without a will to broach this conversation while also giving some emotional distance.
It is not always easy for people to think about their own mortality and planning ahead opportunities. However, it is critical to incorporate having a will into your estate planning guidelines in order to make things easier for your beneficiaries and to assist them in avoiding the probate process. A knowledgeable New Jersey estate planning attorney can help you incorporate all of these goals into your short and long term planning.
When it comes to the process of financial or estate planning, the focus will usually be on preparing you for the future. There are certainly several different aspects of this, including deciding the best time to select Social Security, putting together a will and thinking about how taxes will influence your future.
There is one exception, however, and that is estate planning. Estate planning focuses solely on you and helps to give you greater peace of mind and security about your future.
Although the elements of financial planning will primarily benefit you, the purpose of estate planning is to benefit charities and other loved ones long into the future. This can make a critical different when thinking about the differences between estate and financial planning. In order to address uncertainty, you need to think beyond the will.
Certainly, the will is the foundational element of your estate plan but it’s not the only factor your need to consider. Your estate may be more complex than you think and you may need to have a trust as well as powers of attorney, healthcare directives or guardian designations. Speaking with an experienced New Jersey estate planning attorney is the only way to ensure that you have covered all of your bases.
Anytime that a celebrity passes away, we get the opportunity to benefit from his or her planning or lack of planning. Unfortunately, a growing number of Americans, much like pop star Prince, do not have a will at all.
What follows are several reasons why it’s important to put your estate in order now as opposed to later. Four reasons you need to stop putting this process off and create a will now include:
Allocating what happens to your things after you pass away. If you have specific assets you would like to pass on to particular individuals, your will can outline this and make it much easier for your beneficiaries by avoiding the probate process. This can be one of the biggest and easiest benefits of stipulating what you want to happen in your will.
Your children. Creating a will is an essential component of your estate planning if you have minor children because it allows you to name a guardian for these individuals.
Charitable help. If you wish to give back to charities after you pass away, your will can direct part of the money to those groups. You may also need to use more complex estate planning tools like a trust in order to get the maximum benefit out of this process.
It is easy to create a will. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can create a will on your own as using generic forms could run counter to existing state or federal laws and fail to capture the complex nature of estate planning.
Your will can help to articulate your plans for the future and give you peace of mind.
Thankfully, putting together a will is relatively easily accomplished when you set up a meeting with an experienced New Jersey estate planning attorney. Do not hesitate to get help on your estate planning matters as soon as possible.