Most people don’t like to contemplate their own mortality and often put off making plans until something in life reminds them, such as the death of a loved one, sickness, or even a pandemic. Only about one-third of Americans have a will or estate plan in effect, according to a study carried out by the website Caring.com.
Once you enter the working world, there’s no reason not to plan for the future — not just for yourself, but for the loved ones in your life as well. You can never be too young or too old to begin planning for the future, but you can wait too long. If you die without a will, you’ll be leaving matters of inheritance in the hands of a state court without any say over how your assets will be distributed.
Creating a will is one of the most basic steps you can take to care for your loved ones and protect what matters most to you. If you live in Union City, New Jersey, or nearby in Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken, or North Bergen, contact Hudson Law Firm to begin planning for the future through a strategically executed last will and testament.
Most people are familiar with the basic form of a will that we’ve seen in movies and TV dramas. The one where someone reads a will and gasps fill the air as heirs and would-be beneficiaries express their discontent at being left out. While proceedings may not typically be this dramatic in real life, it can be critical to have a legal document that specifies your exact wishes so that when you die, you’re able to pass on any property or assets exactly as you fit.
If you’re considering drafting a will, there are actually four different types that you can consider:
A Simple Will - This is the document that designates who receives what from your estate, meaning your accumulated property and assets. It also can name a guardian for any minor children that you may have.
Testamentary Trust Will - This type places some of your assets in a trust with a designated trustee to handle matters when you’re gone. This is often used when minor children are involved, so you can place conditions on their inheritance, such as reaching a certain age or other factors.
Living Will - A living will has nothing to do with inheritance, but specifies specific medical treatment preferences, should you become incapacitated. This includes decisions like whether or not you will be put on life support or be resuscitated if your heart stops.
If you die without a will, the state considers you to have died intestate, and a probate court — called a Surrogate Court in New Jersey — will decide who gets what. Even if you die with a will, your estate will still have to go through the probate process. In a will, however, not only can you specify the division of your assets, but you can also name a personal representative who becomes the executor of your will during probate. The executor has a fiduciary duty to fulfill your wishes as specified in your will.
To be accepted in New Jersey, a will must have been witnessed by two persons when the testator — or creator of the will — signs the document. The witnesses do not have to read the will, but instead, just be ready to testify that it was signed by the person whose name is on it. If the signing is done before a notary public, then the will becomes self-proven, and the witnesses will not have to verify it during probate proceedings.
Under New Jersey law, you are allowed to update your will at any time, should your personal life change. Typical changes that often cause someone to update their will include divorce, marriage, the birth of a child, acquiring new property, and so on.
Assets such as life insurance policies that name beneficiaries will transfer outside of probate and cannot be designated to someone else in a will. Other such assets and transfer methods include:
Retirement accounts naming a beneficiary
Property held jointly with right of survivorship
Property and assets held in a trust
Securities in transfer-on-death accounts
Pay-on-death bank accounts
A revocable trust is another option in estate planning. The benefit to what is called a living, or revocable, trust is that it can help you avoid the probate process entirely. In such a trust, you name a trustee to manage your assets should you become incapacitated or pass away. Before either of those events, you continue to maintain personal control. If you have minor children and need to name a guardian for them, however, that can only be done with a will. So, trusts and wills often go hand in hand.
If you’re among the two-thirds of Americans who lack a will or other estate planning document, now is the time to get started. You can never be too young — especially since wills can be updated and modified as circumstances in your life change. You can indeed wait too long, and if you do, your loved ones will be left speculating over what they think you would have wanted long after you’re gone.
Save your family the time and stress by creating a strategic estate plan complete with a detailed will today. You can name all of the beneficiaries, designate exactly how you wish to have any property and assets distributed, and even name a guardian for your children, should it be necessary. When you choose to work with me at the Hudson Law Firm, I’ll be able to use over a decade of knowledge and experience to answer all of your questions as we put together a strategic estate plan that takes care of all of your needs. So don’t wait. Call or reach out to my office today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.
To help make sure your will covers all the bases, both legal and personal, call or reach out to the Hudson Law Firm today. Cou can rely on my extensive estate planning experience to help you craft a proper document that will fulfill your final wishes and protect what matters most to you and your family. I proudly represent clients throughout Union City, Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken, and North Bergen, New Jersey — so call or reach out to my office today to schedule an initial consultation.