Your will should contain everything necessary to ensure the executor can settle your estate in a way that is true to your wishes. This will protect your family members and their financial future, limit disputes, and give you control of what happens to your assets after your death.
A will, or “last will and testament,” has various parts. Each part plays a key role in explaining how you want your executor to settle your estate. The following should be in your will:
The Person You Name as Your Executor
One of the key decisions you will make when we create your will is who will serve as the executor. This should be a trusted person who will carry out the terms you outline. This person will need to follow certain laws, manage your final debts and taxes, and follow your directives.
We often recommend this be someone who is not a beneficiary of your estate, and can help you identify the best option based on your situation. Trust is important in this decision because you will need to choose someone who will act in your best interest and the best interests of your loved ones.
How You Wish to Distribute Your Assets
The part of a will most people think about first is the section that explains how you want to distribute your assets and to whom.
Before creating this section of your will, you need to make a list of all your beneficiaries, whether they are friends, family members, or organizations that mean something to you. You need to be specific when listing each person or organization. Your will should leave no question as to who or what you are referencing. You may also want to name an alternative beneficiary in the event one of your beneficiaries predeceases you.
Then you can make a list of your assets and how you wish for your executor to distribute them. It is important to be specific, and we can help you ensure you cover all your bases to make things as easy as possible for your executor after your passing.
A Guardian for Your Minor Children
If you have minor children or other dependents, one of the most important parts of your will is the section that designates a guardian to provide care for them. Your guardian will make decisions about their medical care, education, and upbringing, as well as provide day-to-day care. This stipulation will only go into effect if both parents pass away.
We can help you select a legal guardian(s) for your minor children or other dependents, and ensure your choice is clear in your will. If you choose to list a couple as your minor children’s guardians, we ensure your will allows either party to make decisions on behalf of the child.
A Person to Manage the Money Left for Minor Children
Some people choose to have the guardians of their minor children also handle the money the children inherit. Others want a third party to oversee the financial matters.
There are pros and cons to both, and we can help you weigh them and make your decision. We can also outline any stipulations you have for when your children may receive their inheritance, and how this party should manage the process.
Your Wishes for Your Final Arrangements
While not required, we can help you create a section of your will to outline your final arrangements. This ensures your family members carry out your final wishes about your funeral, the handling of your remains, and your cremation or burial. You can include as many details as you would like here. We also encourage our clients to discuss these wishes with their immediate family members and executor when they create their will.
The Necessary Signatures
New Jersey estate laws require you to sign your will in front of two other people, who also sign your will as witnesses. These signatures make it official.
While the law does not require you to notarize your will, we can do this for you and it is highly recommended. When your will has a stamp from a notary, it is “self-proving” during the probate process. This prevents your executor and your family members from having to prove the authenticity of your signature. Instead, the court will accept the notarization automatically without attempting to contact the witnesses who signed it.
How Can I Reach a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney for Help with My Will?
If you have questions about creating or updating your New Jersey will, Bratton Scott’s legal team of estate planning attorneys, social workers, and a registered nurse can help you understand the process and provide the support you need. Call our office today at 856-857-6007 to schedule a time to discuss your needs with us.