Tips for Completing Your Last Will and Testament

tips for wills nj

Tips for Completing Your Last Will and Testament

We all give in to procrastination from time to time. (Except for me. I give in to procrastination all the time.  Which is why I’m grateful I have a great team of lawyers and staff to keep me focused.)  However, when it comes to estate planning, it is important that you start and finish your last will and testament in a timely manner. But even after your documents are signed and notarized, the process isn’t over forever. As your life changes, you should revisit your estate plan periodically, updating it when appropriate to it accurately reflects your last wishes and current circumstances.

What happens, if you should die without a valid will in place? New Jersey intestacy laws take over. This means that the state determines how to distribute your wealth, and assets. Wanted everything to go to your children and not your spouse? Too bad — without a will in place, there are no instructions on how your estate should be divided up. You want your children to have your sister as their guardian and not your in-laws? Making your intentions known through your will is your best bet in making sure your sister becomes the guardian.

To help your loved ones avoid such a catastrophe in the event of your death, consider the following tips for completing your last will and testament:

  • Consult an attorney —There is simply no substitute for an attorney. While it may seem like everything today is do-it-yourself, you should never try to interpret the law or create legal documents without professional guidance. A good estate planning lawyer helps you develop clear, strategically detailed documents that achieve your goals.
  • Destroy any old wills — If you previously executed a will and it no longer reflects your current wishes, be sure to shred or otherwise dispose of the document properly.
  • Mention your children —Even if you plan to disinherit your children, you should address your wishes for them in your will. The reason for doing this is to emphasize clearly to the court that you did not forget to include your children in the document. If you intentionally leave your children nothing and fail to mention them at all, they may contest your will and claim that you forgot to leave them an inheritance, even if that was, indeed, your intent. On the other hand, be sure to select a guardian for your children if they are minors.
  • Choose appropriate witnesses — In New Jersey, to be admitted to probate a will must have at least two witnesses. You and your two witnesses must be present when you sign your will. Usually we take care of procuring witnesses for you in our Springfield or Lebanon offices.
  • Select an executor — Next you must name an individual to be the executor to your estate. He or she will carry out your final affairs after your death, including distributing your assets as you specify in your will. Your will should be kept in a safe place, but the executor should know its location. You should also be sure to select a backup executor in case the person you designate is deceased or not interested in serving as your executor.
  • Trustee(s) – If you are creating a trust, be sure to select trustees who will manage your assets effectively.

With help from a skilled attorney you can ensure that your estate plan fully expresses your last wishes and that it protects and provides for the people you love. Always obtain professional assistance drafting your will, contesting a will and with all other aspects of estate planning in throughout New Jersey. Contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm, at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908­236­6457 today.

Estate Planning 101: Terms You Need to Know

Estate Planning 101

Estate Planning 101: Terms You Need to Know

Taking the time to sit down and plan your estate is one of the wisest decisions you can make in life. Strategic estate planning distributes your wealth, businesses, properties and other assets to your loved ones after you die while helping them avoid unnecessary taxes, fees and lengthy wait times.

Estate planning may seem simple enough, but you should be mindful of the many pitfalls along the way. Details are crucial, and without professional guidance, you could leave language ambiguous or otherwise create reasons to question your intent or your will’s validity. For example, there are countless stories of children who are unintentionally disinherited because of seemingly insignificant mistakes in a parent’s will, and they end up having to take costly legal action to resolve disputes and other issues.

So, what do you need to know when you’re creating an estate plan? First, you must keep in mind that there is no substitute for an experienced and trustworthy attorney (and financial planner) if you wish for your legacy to be intact and inherited by the people you love. Before meeting with your lawyer, familiarize yourself with the following terms so you understand the upcoming process more thoroughly:

  • Probate — Probate is the process of legally validating a will. The two primary reasons that people wish to avoid probate are that it ties up property, sometimes for months, and that it can be expensive. A thoughtful estate plan can avoid probate altogether.  On the other hand, in New Jersey the probate process is not too complicated, and it might be easier and cheaper to actually not avoid probate.  Everyone’s estate plan is unique, and it’s important to consult an attorney to discuss your options.
  • Will — Your will contains your last wishes for your property and assets after you die. In New Jersey, if you die without a will, your belongings are divided and distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. In addition to specifying to whom you wish to leave your possessions, your will can name a guardian for your children, a trusted person to manage the property you leave to your children and an executor to your estate.
  • Executor — An executor is a person you designate to manage your estate through probate. Your executor distributes your assets to the beneficiaries you have named in your will. Among additional responsibilities, he or she pays all outstanding bills due at your death and settles any lingering debts.
  • Testator — A testator is the writer of a will.
  • Trustee — If you create a trust as part of your estate plan, you will need to name a trustee to look after the property held within the trust. A trustee is responsible for maintaining the property in a trust for the beneficiaries of the trust.
  • Advance directives — Most documents in an estate plan relate to what happens after your death. Advance directives, on the other hand, address who should manage your finances and medical care should you remain alive but suffer physical or mental incapacity. Advance healthcare directives also allow you to make decisions before the point of incapacity, so your loved ones are not left wondering how best to respect your wishes.

The terms listed above should help you understand the basic process of planning your estate. But you still need an attorney who can execute your plan effectively. Seek advice from Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908­236­6457 to learn more.

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