A will is a legal document or legally binding statement (recognized in some states) that states how the testator (the person signing the will) would like his or her possessions to be handled after death. Will laws don't differ too much from one state to the next. However, New Jersey law does not allow oral wills, but the state does recognize handwritten wills if the material provisions of the will are written in the testator's handwriting. Each state has its own set of requirements for making a valid will, although they do not change much.
New Jersey requires that a person is at least 18 years old in order to execute a valid will.
Every state requires legal competence in order to validly execute a will. This means that the person must be of sound mind, enough to understand the meaning and purpose of the document, and understand the nature and extent of their property. For example, if a person has a mental disability that prevents them from understanding the purpose of a will, their will is invalid in New Jersey. Alternately, this may happen if an elderly person is suffering from dementia, and does not generally know the extent of their property. However, as long as the person understands the purpose of a will, and generally knows the extent of their property, this requirement is satisfied. Witnesses New Jersey requires that a typed will be signed by at least two people who witnessed the testator sign the will, or witnessed the testator acknowledge their signature on the will or the will itself.
Handwritten wills are sometimes called “holographic wills.” This only means that the will, or material provisions of the will, are in the testator’s own handwriting. In New Jersey, these are valid whether or not they are witnessed as long as the will, or material provisions of the will, are in the testator’s handwriting.
If you do not have a will, you will die “intestate.” This means that your property will be divided according to state law. Your family members will still inherit, but based on standard rules rather than your wishes. If you would like to know more about the requirements for making a will the Law Offices of Daniel Santiago will also be able to advise you on the best method of estate planning for your situation, which may include a trust or other estate planning instrument.
If you need help with your will or estate planning, call our office today and one of our experienced attorneys will be happy to help you through the process.