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“What will happen after I die?” is one of the most important questions you’ll ask when thinking about your estate and family. After spending a lifetime building up your estate, you’ll want to make sure the right people benefit from it when you’re gone.
There are many tools to help you with estate planning in New Jersey. Whether you live in Jersey City, Newark or Paterson, you have access to legal estate planning resources like wills, living trusts, advance directives and more. Using LawInfo’s New Jersey estate planning articles, you can learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family’s future and connect with a qualified local attorney.
A New Jersey Last Will and Testament is one of the most common documents people use to secure the inheritance of their estate. A will is a public record of the testate’s (the decedent, or the person for whom the will is written) final wishes in regards to the distribution of their real and personal assets, guardianship for minor children and who shall execute their will (the will’s “executor”).
Anyone who is 18 years or older and is of sound mind may make a will. A will must be made in writing (either typed or handwritten) and signed by the testator and two witnesses. New Jersey law permits anyone who is competent enough to be a witness to be one for a will, even if they have an interest in any part of the will.
Only real and personal assets that are otherwise unclaimed by other legal agreements or survivorship rules may be included in a will. For instance, you can’t promise a family business property to your children if it’s jointly owned by another party.
There are two disadvantages to distributing your estate through a will—a will must be probated and becomes a matter of public record. A living trust addresses these disadvantages.
Living trusts do not require probate, which is the process of executing a will with court oversight. This could save time and money later on. Additionally, you can keep the details of your estate private by avoiding probate. There are no tax advantages to using a living trust over a will, however. You will still be responsible for arranging the payment of applicable estate and income taxes.
You can create a living trust by transferring ownership of your real and/or personal property to a trustee. You can also name yourself a trustee, though you’ll need to name a co-trustee. In the living trust document, you can name beneficiaries who will receive specific assets upon your death.
Another difference between living trusts and wills is that living trusts are used only to pass property onto beneficiaries. You can’t assign a guardian to your minor children or include final wishes.
If you were to die without a will, any assets of your estate whose distribution isn’t governed by a legal document or joint ownership will be inherited by your family under New Jersey’s intestate laws. Your intestate estate will be distributed in the following order by survivorship:
If your spouse and children survive you, your spouse may receive a larger share of your estate. New Jersey’s laws specify the size of the shares your inheritors will receive depending on the circumstances of survivorship.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified estate planning lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local estate planning attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.