Tips for Completing Your Last Will and Testament

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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.

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