New Jersey Wills, Trusts, and Probate
While it's not a thought that often crosses our minds, planning for death or incapacity is something of great importance. Regardless of your age or the size of your assets, creating and updating your estate planning mechanisms, such as a will or trust, is of vital importance to one's life. If one is unfortunate enough to have incorrectly drafted a will or other estate planning documents, they risk not having their property division wishes honored. Due to its high level of importance, one should consult his or her estate plan with a New Jersey will attorney.
New Jersey Will
Requirements of a Valid Will
In order to be eligible to make a will, a person must be at least 18 years old and mentally sound. In addition to these requirements, a legally valid will in New Jersey:
If one of the above requirements is not met, New Jersey courts will still recognize the document as a will if a couple things are shown. First, the important provisions of the will and your signature are in writing. Second, you can show that the document was intended to be your will by using outside evidence, such as other documents pertaining to the will. You should look to a New Jersey will attorney to help you meet the requirements of New Jersey will law, allowing you to ensure that it has been done correctly.
Changing a Will in New Jersey
New Jersey has two methods if you want to change your will:
In regard to revocation, New Jersey has two options. First, by executing another legally valid will that will revoke the previous will either expressly or by inconsistency. Second, if you trigger a condition in the will that calls for the revocation of the will. If a will is revoked, then you may create an entirely new will as long as you meet the requirements in New Jersey (listed above).
A codicil is the second method by which to alter a legally valid will. This entails adding a separate document containing the additions/revisions and attaching it to the will itself. If the new will (resulting from either executing a new will or by a codicil) is subsequently revoked by another will, then the initial will is revived unless there is clear and convincing evidence that you did not intend for the previous will to take effect. Regardless of if or what method you choose to revoke a will, it must meet the New Jersey law that applies to wills. Make sure to consult a New Jersey will attorney before making changes to your will.
New Jersey Trust
Another way of distributing assets upon death in New Jersey is through a trust. A trust is often made either to replace a will or as an addition to a will. They can be made for charitable and non-charitable purposes. A will creator can assign property to an already established trust via the will. Additionally, a trust can be made by an individual during his life or after his or her death by someone appointed by the deceased. The trust must have been mentioned in the will and its terms listed in a separate document if the trust is created after death.
A trust will have a “trustee.” A trustee maintains ownership of property on behalf of another who benefits from the trust. A trustee has a number of duties and responsibilities, which include rights when it comes to the investment, management, and sale of the trust. A trust is a complicated document, but a New Jersey estate planning attorney can help you with a personalized trust for your situation.
New Jersey Probate
When a resident of New Jersey dies, his or her property may pass through probate by their will. Property goes through probate process in New Jersey unless the will expressly states otherwise. The will cannot be admitted until ten days after a person’s death has passed. The probate must be done in a court in the New Jersey county where the deceased person resided.
In New Jersey, the probate process begins by first appointing an “executor” of the will. The executor is often times named in the will by the deceased. The executor will carry out the probate process on behalf of the deceased. When distributing the property, the executor must ensure that he or she is doing so according to the terms of the will.
Even if a will was created there is still potential for persons to challenge the validity of the will. If any questions or concerns regarding the probate process arise, one should consult a New Jersey attorney who is experienced in probate law.
If a will is determined to be invalid by the New Jersey courts or there is no will, it is possible the deceased property will pass through the New Jersey intestate process. This means the court will distribute the property to the following people (not exclusive) whom may have an interest in the property, depending on their status with the deceased upon death:
New Jersey Statutes