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4 critical issues regarding a last will and testament

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Perhaps, at one time, you counted yourself among thousands of others in New Jersey who have avoided the estate planning process because you don’t like to think or talk about your own mortality. This type of hesitation is far more common than you might imagine. Maybe you’ve come to understand how signing a last will and testament can help you protect your assets, provide for your loved ones and ensure that others carry out your wishes, not only after you die but prior to that, during end-of-life care as well.  

Executing a last will and testament is not a once-and-done process. You should never just sign a will and then forget about it; doing so can cause problems when the time comes to administer your estate. It’s best to periodically review your plan and keep it updated because various events or changes in life might compel you to change your estate plan, too. Regarding your will, there are four key issues to keep in mind. 

A last will and testament is not valid if the testator did not show capacity 

Under New Jersey estate planning laws, the phrase “testamentary capacity” refers to the ability (capacity) to create a valid will. To demonstrate testamentary capacity, you must have a sound mind. You must also understand the purpose and implications of signing a will. As a testator, you must demonstrate understanding of the value of your estate and be able to identify your beneficiaries.  

Failure to demonstrate testamentary capacity creates invalidity of a last will and testament. When someone challenges the validity of a will, it is based on lack of capacity. To reduce the chances that someone will challenge your will, you’ll want to make sure you have demonstrated capacity when you executed the document.  

You must list your assets and name each person you wish to bequeath an inheritance 

A primary purpose of a last will and testament is to leave instructions as to whom you wish to receive your assets after you die. Therefore, your will should contain a list of the assets you wish to bequeath. You must also designate (by full legal name, not nickname) each beneficiary, clearly stating which assets should go to which person (or group). 

Name someone you trust to carry out your instructions 

An important component of a last will and testament is the designation of an executor. This is the individual you have chosen to carry out the instructions of your will. The role of an executor requires a lot of time and effort. This individual will have many duties, such as gathering your assets and locating each beneficiary to inform them of their inheritance.  

Take your time to think things through when you are choosing an executor. Just because you are close to someone doesn’t mean that he or she is right for the job. Choose someone who will be available and able to fulfill the duties in an efficient and expedient manner.  

Your will is not valid without proper witnessing 

As mentioned earlier, a last will and testament is only valid if it meets the state’s requirements. One such requirement is that you must sign your will in the presence of two or more credible witnesses. These witnesses do not necessarily have to know what you have written in your will. 

However, they must be present when you sign and observe the signature process. Witnesses must also sign off on your will and observe each other signing it. Seeking experienced guidance is the best way to ensure that you have covered all bases for validity when executing a last will and testament in New Jersey. 


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