A will may be one of the most important legal documents you ever sign. A last will and testament can allow you to bequeath your funds and possessions to the persons of your choosing and manage how your fortune will continue after your death.
If you are interested in drafting a will, it could be beneficial to speak with an experienced attorney first. A New Jersey wills lawyer may be able to advise you about the most recent estate laws and best prepare you for planning your legacy.
Wills in New Jersey
New Jersey allows several types of testamentary documents, including those that are handwritten. To be valid for probate, however, each kind must have certain elements.
Typewritten Will in New Jersey
Ideally, a last will and testament should be typewritten and be signed by the author, called the testator, or signed in their presence upon their direction.
Testators are generally deemed competent to write a will if they over 18 and of sound mind. Per New Jersey law, two witnesses must also be present during the will signing, and their signatures are also required on the document.
The Validity of a Handwritten Last Will and Testament
Under certain circumstances, a handwritten document may suffice as a will. Per N.J. Stat. §3B:3-3, writing that demonstrates the intent for it to be a will may be treated as such. Thus, if a holder of will presents it to the court after the testator’s death, they might be able to prove that it was meant to be a testamentary document.
The standard of proof for wills in the New Jersey courts is “clear and convincing evidence.” Persuasive evidence might include accompanying letters, emails, or sworn testimony. A capable New Jersey wills attorney may have other examples of clear and convincing verification of the intent to bequeath.
Changing a Will in New Jersey
New Jersey residents may amend, revoke, or revise their wills. Doing so, however, might not provide the legal consequence that they desired. It may be to a testator’s advantage to speak with a wills attorney in New Jersey before making any alterations to testamentary writing.
A will may be rescinded by an action or via a new document. The author of the will may direct someone to destroy the will in their presence, or they may do it themselves. Moreover, per N.J. Stat. §3B:3-13 a testator may write a new will which indicates that the prior will is being revoked.
New Jersey testators might also consider adding an amendment to their will, called a codicil. One important caveat, however, is that a codicil might republish the will as of the date of the amendment, which could have a significant impact on the terms of the original document.
Persons who wish to add to their testamentary document might want to check with a wills lawyer in New Jersey before making any changes.
Call a New Jersey Wills Attorney Today
If you have an interest in clarifying your wishes on paper well before your death, a last will and testament might be an appropriate choice. Contact a New Jersey wills lawyer today to get started on planning the distribution of your estate. There are estate laws that are specific to New Jersey, so it may be wise to consult local counsel.