General and Living Wills
A will is a legal document that spells out how your assets will be distributed upon your death. Having a will ensures that your loved ones are able to grieve your loss without worrying about the details of how to administer your estate.
Anyone over the age of eighteen should have a will, to ensure that their wishes are carried out, and that their family need not worry about financial details. Similarly, everyone should have a living will. Living wills spell out a person’s wishes for various healthcare situations, including what decisions should be made, and potentially appointing someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated.
If a person dies without a will in New Jersey, their assets are distributed in accordance with state statute.
A person’s “last will and testament” can be used to leave your property to loved ones or charitable organizations, and to identify an executor who is responsible for ensuring that the terms of your will are carried out. A will can also can be used to appoint someone to care for minor children, or special needs adult children.
You can also use a will to appoint someone to manage your assets until minor children reach the age of majority, if they are the ultimate intended recipients.
To ensure that your will is validly executed, you should consult with an experienced Somerville family law lawyer. To finalize a will in New Jersey, you must sign the will in front of two witnesses, who must also sign the document. It does not need to be notarized, although having it notarized makes it “self-proving.”
Courts do not need to contact the witnesses who signed a self-proving will to effect probate.
A person’s will generally is probated in the county where they were living when they died.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
Those who die without a will are said to die “intestate.” In such cases, New Jersey’s intestacy laws determine how a person’s property is distributed.
Generally, a person’s spouse and children receive an intestate person’s property upon their death. If they do not have a spouse and/or child, then grandchildren or parents will receive the property. If none can be found, the law will look to siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If a person has no living relatives, the property passes to the State.
If a person becomes unable to make their own medical decisions due to incapacitation, accident, or dementia, legal documents can tell treatment providers whom you want to make decisions on your behalf, or what decisions you prefer in various situations. Without such documents, these decisions may be placed in the hands of a healthcare provider or judge.
There are two main types of healthcare directives every person should have. First, a “power of attorney” (called a “proxy directive” in New Jersey) names someone to make decisions on your behalf. Second, a “living will” (called an “instruction directive” in New Jersey) tells treatment providers what your wishes are; for instance, if you become completely incapacitated and on life support for an extended period of time.
Many people simply execute a document called an “advance directive for health care” which covers both grounds—naming a proxy directive and setting forth your wishes for medical treatment in various situations.
A person cannot designate their attending physician or employee of a health care institution where they are a patient or resident to serve as their proxy.
An experienced Somerville family law lawyer can explain the attributes you may want in a health care representative, and help you decide who to name to that position.
Somerville Family Law Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist People with Wills and Living Wills
Although thinking about the inevitable can be difficult, spelling out your wishes in detail is a gift to your family members. Take the guesswork and worry out of their hands by calling the experienced Somerville family law lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. today at 908-575-9777 or by contacting us online to schedule a confidential consultation. We provide personal attention to our clients in a full range of family law matters, including divorce, trusts, wills, and estates.