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Signing and Notarizing Wills During the Pandemic

The most common reason a will is contested is because someone claims it was not properly executed, so you need to carefully observe notarization and signing laws if you want to spare your loved ones any legal issues following your passing. However, creating a will that follows all legal formalities can be more challenging during the coronavirus pandemic. If you want to update your estate planning during these uncertain times, here are some tips for making sure your will or trust is correctly executed.

New Jersey’s Requirements for Finalizing a Will During Coronavirus

In the state of New Jersey, the only things you need to do to make a will a legally binding document are to sign the will in front of two witnesses and get them to sign your will. You can draw up a simple will at home and get started on your estate planning without ever having to leave. However, if you want to speed things up for your loved ones, you may want to consider a self-proving will. This involves notarizing a will, and it ensures the court will accept it without having to talk to each of the witnesses who signed it.

Understanding New Jersey’s Requirements for Executing a Trust

A trust’s requirements are slightly different from wills. Like a will, executing a trust does not require a notary to sign the document, so you and your estate planning lawyer can start it at home during the pandemic. However, New Jersey trust notarization can reduce the risk of someone challenging the trust later on. Keep in mind that to finalize a trust, you have to put all involved assets in the name of the trust. If this involves transferring property like real estate, the documents will need to be notarized so that they can be filed with your county’s registry of deeds later on.

Who Is Allowed to Witness Your Will?

If you are planning on writing up a will at home, you might turn toward family members to be your witnesses during the coronavirus outbreak. In New Jersey, the witnesses can be someone who is a beneficiary in the will, so it is perfectly fine to have a spouse or child over the age of 18 sign the will as your witness. Though this will not necessarily disqualify your will, it can lead to some issues. The witness is meant to testify that you were of sound mind when you signed the will, and if they are a beneficiary, their testimony may be doubted. You also need to make sure the witness can be contacted during probate if necessary, so avoid using someone like the grocery delivery person you might never see again. Overall, your best option is getting someone to sign who knows you but is not going to inherit anything, such as a neighbor or estate planning lawyer.

Can You Use a Notary’s Services Online?

If you want to use a notary in your at-home estate planning, you can get it notarized online now. This was not an option before COVID-19, but in April, Governor Murphy enacted emergency legislation that changed the rules. Right now, public notaries can authenticate documents remotely. To carry out a New Jersey online notarization, you can use audio and video methods. This is just as valid as the usual methods of notarizing a will or trust, so your document can even be used once the pandemic ends.

Ultimately, it is possible to create a will or trust while following stay-at-home guidelines. However, even during the coronavirus, it is still a good idea to get input from an estate planning professional. This will ensure that your loved ones are cared for as effectively as possible in case anything happens. The Knee Law Firm of Hackensack, New Jersey, has years of experience drafting wills and trusts. If you would like to find out more about how we can assist you, give us a call at (201) 996-1200 or email us today.

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