Today Your Legal Corner will discuss “Steps to Creating a Valid Will.”
What has become evident as a result of the recent terror attacks in Paris or the cyber attacks here in America is that there is power in the pen. Writing is still a very strong tool in getting a message out.
Further, as we age, the power in the pen becomes even stronger, because we may not be able to explain what our written words mean. In order to create a valid will, it must be properly executed, with content that is easy to understand.
Generally a will is executed properly, when the following requirements are met. The person creating the will, also known as the testator, must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. Sound mind means the testator understands or has the capacity to know the objects of his or her bounty.
The will should be typewritten, dated, and signed by the testator, witnessed by two adults of sound mind over the age of 18. The witnesses cannot inherit or benefit under a will they are witnessing. Additionally, creating a will in New Jersey permits witnesses to sign a self-proving affidavit, where when notarized, eliminates the need to prove the authenticity of a witness to the will. Although not required in all states, notarizing all signatures when creating a will in New Jersey is a good practice as it may extend validity beyond the original state where the will was created.
Whether creating a will in New Jersey or any other state, you decide who is to receive your assets as well as the manner in which they are to be transferred to your named beneficiaries. The person who carries out your wishes is known as the Executor/Executrix. The Executor’s/Executrix’s main responsibility is to carry out the terms as written in the will after you have passed.
The transfer of assets must be clearly written, so that it is easily understood and it lacks any ambiguity. When a will is clearly interpreted, the chance for conflicts and lawsuits is minimal.
For example, contemplate what would happen in the event an intended beneficiary predeceases you? Would his or her share remain in the estate, be shared with other named beneficiaries or simply pass to his or her children? Does the will provide for additional children or grandchildren who may not be listed or who are born after the will was created to receive a share of the proceeds? Is the term children defined to include stepson or stepdaughter? You may also want to consider adopted children. The answer depends on how the will is written.
Whether or not to create a will with an online service or with an experienced estate attorney is an important choice in determining the likelihood of a valid will. When there are financial constraints, just be aware of the risks when weighing whether to select an online or free service to create a valid will instead of an attorney. With online or free services, it is often necessary to know what should be contained in a valid will, as legal choices in most instances are not explained and the opportunity to ask questions is nonexistent or minimal.
Alternatively, when creating a valid will with an experienced estate attorney, your choices should be explained and questions answered. Working with an attorney may provide added peace of mind that your assets will transfer according to your written intentions and is legally enforceable.
Till next week, God bless, and keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss “3 Important Tips to Consider When Adult Children are Estate Beneficiaries.”
Victoria M. Dalton is an Attorney with the law firm of Hoffman DiMuzio.
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Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational articles about the law and is not legal advice!