Creating a New Jersey Will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. New Jersey wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid New Jersey wills, and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a New Jersey last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a New Jersey Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years of age.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind.
Signature: A New Jersey last will and testament must be signed by the testator or in the testator's name by some other individual in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
Witnesses: A New Jersey last will and testament must be signed by 2 or more witnesses, each of whom witnessed either the signing or the testator's acknowledgment of the signature or of the will.
Writing: A New Jersey last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A New Jersey last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic wills: Under certain requirements provided by New Jersey laws, a handwritten will may be recognized. However, the legal requirements for a handwritten will are specific and need to be strictly followed in order to deem the will valid.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, New Jersey laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
Our New Jersey wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our New Jersey wills form may also be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled.
In addition, a will may be used to pass on property to a charity.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
A beneficiary in a life insurance policy may not be changed through a will.
If a spouse is excluded from the will, the surviving spouse may take a portion (an "elective share") of the estate within a certain period of time as allowed by New Jersey laws.
Providing for Pets
Under applicable New Jersey state laws, a trust designating a caretaker for a pet after the owner's death is valid. The pet trust terminates when the last pet dies, or after 21 years. The testator would have to create a testamentary addition to the will (known as a pour over will) that would devise the pet to a trustee. Legalzoom's New Jersey wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A New Jersey will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A New Jersey will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with New Jersey probate laws.
Revoking a Will
A New Jersey will and testament or a part of a will and testament can be revoked:
1) By a subsequent will which revokes the former will or has different terms than the original will; or
2) By being burned, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed with the intent and for the purpose of revoking by the testator or by another person in his presence and by his direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the New Jersey last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, appoint a personal representative to administrate the will, and distribute property as designated in the New Jersey last will.
According to the New Jersey Division of Taxation:
The New Jersey estate tax was revised on July 1, 2002 and made to apply retroactively to decedents dying after December 31, 2001. Prior to its revision the New Jersey estate tax was a "sponge"or "pickup" tax whose sole purpose was to absorb any credit for state inheritance, estate, succession or legacy taxes available in the Federal estate tax proceeding. The revised New Jersey estate tax is decoupled from the Federal estate tax.
It is extremely important to make a New Jersey will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict New Jersey laws.
For example, your spouse will receive the entire estate if you have no surviving parents or children. If you leave no surviving spouse and only children, then your children will share the estate in equal amounts.
If you make a New Jersey will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.