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Wills – What Is a Will?

Having a will is essential for every person, whether you are single or married with children. A will can also help to protect your estate and your loved ones after you pass away. However, because not all estate planning issues are the same, it is important to meet with an experienced will and probate attorney when drafting your will or revising an existing one.

Wills are legal documents that indicate who is to be in charge of your belongings after you die and how your assets will be distributed. The person or people who will be in charge of your estate are called executor(s) and their responsibility is to take charge of your assets and distribute them pursuant to the terms of your will.

Types of Wills

If you are thinking about writing a will, take some time to explore what type of will is the right fit for you. The type of will you choose will be determined by several factors, including the size and complexity of your estate.

  • Simple Will

With a Simple Will, you can express your basic wishes without including multiple clauses or stipulations. You may appoint an Executor to ensure they carry your wishes as you wish. Your simple will can specify who will inherit your assets and care for your minor children.

  • Joint Wills

There is no need to draft separate wills for each testator in a joint will. By executing a joint will, both spouses agree the other will inherit everything. As long as both partners are alive, changes can be made to a joint will. After one partner dies, the will becomes irrevocable (meaning it cannot be changed).

  • Testamentary Trust Will

It is a type of will that allows a person to outline how they would like their assets distributed after their death, by appointing a trustee to administer the estate according to their will. You can create testamentary trusts to benefit children and grandchildren and can also include charitable donations and assets held for income.

  • Living Will

To help determine your end-of-life wishes, there are two documents you can create. The first is an advanced healthcare directive, sometimes called a living will, also sometimes called a Health Care Proxy which outlines the medical treatment you want to receive if you cannot decide for yourself. The second document is more of a financial tool called a power of attorney, which names someone to handle your property and specify your wishes for medical treatment. A living will take effect only after the maker of the living will become terminally ill.

What goes into a Will?

All wills, regardless of type, have a few key components in common. These include:

  • Assets

Through a will, you can specify the beneficiaries of your estate. Assets typically include real estate, bank accounts, life insurance policies, tax-deferred retirement accounts and personal property such as automobiles and jewelry. Sometimes, a trust may be used instead of a will to control assets.

  • Real Property

If a person owns a home, should they be worried about inheritance? You are considered to possess “real property” if you own any building, or any structure at the time of your death. So, it is important to include a clause that dictates what should happen to your property.

  • Guardianship

For many, creating a will is about saying goodbye to your loved ones and making sure they will be cared for. The terms of guardianship are often detailed in the will, outlining who will care for minor children, which spouse will get custody of children, what happens to pets, etc.

  • Executor

Executors are persons named in a will to carry out the instructions of the will and transfer assets to the beneficiaries. Upon taking on these duties, the executor must obtain all property not already owned by the deceased and obtain any required court approval.

Tasks range from marshaling (gathering and creating an inventory) of property and banking assets, determining they can sell which assets and for how much, to handling final requests such as funeral arrangements and making personal visits to deliver important papers personally.

Arrangements Instructions

A list of what you want to be done with your remains and funeral are the responsibility of the funeral representative who many times is also the executor. If you don’t want your family to make tough decisions on what you would like done with your remains, then think of funeral representatives and include this list in your will.

Making a Will: Steps to Follow

Making a will can be time-consuming, but it’s one of the most important tasks you will ever take on. It’s also an opportunity to remember your loved ones in a special way. Some steps to follow when creating a will are:

  • Create an inventory of property or assets that you own: Include property or assets inside your name. Spell out to whom you want your property to go.
  • Choose beneficiaries: Carefully choose who will receive the assets in your estate plan. If you don’t make it clear in your will, you can’t control where your hard-earned assets go when you die.
  • Choose an executor: Naming an Executor (or Personal Representative) is a major task in making a will. This person must be someone that you trust, and feel can carry out your wishes after your death.
  • Choose a guardian for your children: Choose someone who will raise your child according to your values and beliefs, someone who is responsible and loving. It may be helpful to talk with your partner about this decision before making your final choice.
  • Have your will notarized: Have your will witnessed and notarized. A lawyer must notarize a Will, and you will need to get two witnesses to sign the document in the presence of the notary public.

The witnesses must be people who can testify in court about the person’s signature making the Will. It is advisable to use someone who knows you well and an independent third party who is not a beneficiary named in the will, such as a neutral family member.

At the Tarta Law offices we can help you create a valid and lasting will to pass on your assets and protect your family. We will advise you on your estate planning options and draft a legally binding will specific to your situation. We gladly serve residents of Midland Park, Clifton, Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Wyckoff, and Franklin Lakes, HoHoKus, Allendale, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Paramus, Wayne, Mahwah, Pines Lake, Ramsey, Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey among other municipalities. in New Jersey. Call us on 201-444-8448 today to schedule an appointment.