If you haven’t put together an estate plan of any kind—a means of ensuring the orderly distribution of your property in the event of your death—a will may be exactly what you need to have the peace of mind that everything will go where you want it to go, and that you’ll minimize the loss of your estate to taxes or other recipients. Here are some things you should know about wills in New Jersey.

What Happens if You Die without a Will?

If you die without a will, your property won’t be lost to the state, but your heirs won’t have any say as to how it will be distributed. Instead, it will be divided according to the laws of “intestacy.” In New Jersey, surviving spouses and children generally have priority, but the distribution can become fairly complicated, depending on whether or not there are parents or siblings living, and whether there are children from another relationship. If, and only if, you have no living relatives by blood or by marriage, your estate will go to the state.

The Requirements for Formalizing a Will in New Jersey

For your last will and testament to be valid in New Jersey, you must first sign the will in the presence and observation of two witnesses. Those two witnesses must also sign the will.

There is no requirement in New Jersey that you have a will notarized. However, if you choose to make your will “self-proving,” you will need a notary. As part of the estate administration process, the probate court customarily must contact the witnesses who signed the will. However, if you sign an affidavit and have it notarized, your will becomes self-proving and the court does not need to contact the witnesses, thereby speeding up the probate process.

You Can (and Should) Name an Executor in Your Will

When your will is “probated,” you will need an executor to oversee that process. You can name that person in your will—if you don’t, the probate court will have to do that for you, which can slow down the process. In addition, the person named by the court may have no knowledge of you or your heirs.

Contact the Law Office of Jared M. Lans

We offer a free phone consultation to every new client. To set up a call, send us an e-mail or call us at 201-457-9400. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request. We accept Visa and MasterCard.

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