Under New Jersey law a person has the right to create a will to determine how their possessions are distributed after their death. If a person does not have a valid will then there estate is distributed according to the intestacy laws of New Jersey. This means that a statute will determine who gets your possessions without concern for your specific wishes. For many people this is not their desire and the following FAQ’s will show why having a legal estate plan done by the Herron Law Firm can be your best plan.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document which lays out the testator’s (person making the will) wishes for how their estate will be distributed after their death. In New Jersey it requires two witnesses and may be self-proving. Wills which are vague or creates questions regarding interpretation, or fails to provide for a contingency, it could be subject to expensive court proceedings. Additionally, wills which might not have been properly created/executed can also lead to expensive court proceedings.
Do I need an attorney to draft my will?
By law: no. However, an attorney will be able to ensure that your will properly lists the instructions for your estate and will make sure that it is valid in the eyes of the law. An attorney will be able to make sure that the will does not have issues likely to lead to expensive court proceedings after your death. Having a lawyer write your will gives you peace of mind that this is properly taken care of and that your wishes will be followed after your death.
I’m young and healthy, do I really need a will?
Jonathan Herron advises all of his clients that having a will is a best practice for anyone who owns property, is married, and/or has children. Your will gives you the ability to ensure that the guardians for your children are chosen by you, the parent, instead of a New Jersey Judge deciding based off of a statute. Additionally, as is seen in the next question, a will allows you to control who receives any of your possessions after death.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
If you die without a will, called intestate, then a New Jersey statute controls how your estate is divided. This means that if you want to ensure that a spouse receives everything, have a will. If you want to leave everything to a sibling and no one else, have a will. If you want to give specific things to a specific child, have a will. If you have a particular friend/relative you want to become the guardian for underage children, have will.
The best advice if you want to control what becomes of your property and underage children after your death: HAVE A WILL.
What is an Executor/Administrator?
An executor is a person named in your will to be responsible for distributing your estate according to the provisions of the will. If you die without a will this person is an administrator and is appointed by the court.
You can name any person you choose to be your executor, however, if you die without a will only certain people can be named administrator.
Are there any other documents I need to have a complete estate plan?
The Herron Law Firm generally advises clients to also create a durable power of attorney and a medical directive for clients creating an estate plan. The durable power of attorney appoints a person to oversee your financial affairs in case you become incapacitated. This person will have the authority to make sure your bills are paid, and your finances are managed even if you are deemed not mentally competent to handle such matters yourself.
A medical directive provides instructions for your medical care if a time comes when you cannot personally make decisions about your care. When you reach this level of diminished capacity, a physician will ask your family members if you have a medical directive. This document will specify whether you want to accept or reject certain medical treatments while you are incapacitated.
Is it expensive to get these documents made?
Many people assume hiring a lawyer to prepare a will is expensive. For most people this is not the case. At the Herron Law Firm we offer reasonable, affordable rates for clients seeking estate planning. We also offer free consultations to discuss your wishes. At the end of this consultation Jonathan Herron will be able to tell you the exact cost of your estate plan. For most clients this is around $500 (for both a husband and wife).
Contact the Herron Law Firm today at 856-298-1062 to schedule a free consultation and request a copy of our estate planning questionnaire.