How Do You Create a Valid Will?
Did you know that only 42% of adults have estate planning documents in place? If you do not have a will yet, it is definitely time to start thinking about it. When you write your will, you just need to take a few precautions to ensure it is valid.
What Requirements Do You Have to Meet?
To create a will, you have to be a legally competent adult. This means you must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind. People who are ill or in the early stages of dementia may be able to write a will, but they still need to be generally competent. If there are doubts about whether you knew what you were writing, your will can end up being contested in court. New Jersey allows you to write a will any way you desire. It can be handwritten or typed, and it can be as long or as short as you want.
Does Your Will Need to Be Witnessed?
A lot of guides on how to write a will focus on the witnesses because they have such a huge responsibility. To be valid, any document you write has to be signed by two witnesses who can testify in court that you wrote the will and were of sound mind. The witnesses need to be over the age of 18. Unlike in some other states, New Jersey will requirements do not say the witness has to be an unbiased party. This means a beneficiary of the will, like a wife or child, is allowed to be a witness. However, keep in mind that using a beneficiary makes it easier for someone else to contest the will on grounds of undue influence.
What Can You Include in Your Will?
A will gives you lots of flexibility, but there are some things that cannot be included in a valid will. A will cannot require your beneficiaries to do anything illegal or make major life changes such as moving, marrying, having a child, or changing a religion. Your will also cannot bequeath property that is not yours to give, such as an item held in trust or a life insurance policy that already has a beneficiary. In most cases, an invalid request will just be ignored. For example, if you leave money to a minor and tell them to have a beer with it right away, they will probably just get the money without doing any underage drinking. However, sometimes, the nature of the illegal request can result in the entire will being thrown out. Therefore, it is a good idea to talk to an estate planning litigation lawyer before writing any unusual requirements into your will.
Do You Need Notarization or Help From a Lawyer?
As long as you are of sound mind, get your will properly witnessed, and do not include any illegal provisions, your document is a valid last will and testament. New Jersey does not require you to get a lawyer to write your will or have a notary witness your will. However, even though these are not legal requirements, they can still be helpful. Signing before a notary can help remove any potential concerns about whether you were of sound mind. A wills attorney can also help reduce your chances of having your will contested. Furthermore, they may be able to help you set up trusts or other estate planning methods that reduce taxes and ensure your loved ones are properly cared for.
The Knee Law Firm in Hackensack, New Jersey, has plenty of experience drafting wills and other estate planning documents. Our team of estate planning litigation lawyers is happy to assist you with creating a valid and legally sound will. We also help with tasks like creating trusts, power of attorney documents, and more. Call (201) 996-1200 or fill out our online contact form today to learn more.