What are the Legal Requirements of a Valid Will in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, a will must meet the legal requirements set forth by the state in order to be valid. When you look at a last will and testament sample, and before you fill out a last will and testament form, make sure it meets these requirements.
New Jersey Requirements for a Valid Will
Here are the basic requirements for making—legally referred to as “executing”—a valid will in New Jersey:
- A person executing a will must be at least 18 years old.
- He or she must be “of sound mind.” (“Sound mind” generally means someone who has not been deemed incompetent in a prior legal proceeding.)
- A will must be in writing.
- A will must be signed by the person making it (the “testator”) and by two people who witnessed the testator sign the will, or witnessed the testator acknowledge his or her signature or the will itself. (If a testator cannot physically sign his or her own name, he or she may direct another party to do so.)
The Competence Requirement
Every state requires legal competence for a will to be valid. In New Jersey, this means a person executing a will must be of “sound mind.” The two requirements to be considered of sound mind are to (1) understand the meaning and purpose of the document and (2) understand the nature and extent of the property at issue.
One example of incompetency is if a person has a mental disability that prevents him or her from understanding the purpose of a will. Another example is an elderly person who is suffering from dementia, and does not generally know the extent of his or her property.
If you are wondering, “Can a valid will be contested?”, asserting that a person was not of sound mind is generally the most common (and successful) ground for challenging a will. Lack of competence may also result from a person being unduly influenced or persuaded to write a will a certain way.
New Jersey law does not recognize oral wills, but the state will probate a handwritten will if it is written in the testator’s handwriting. These wills are sometimes called “holographic” wills, which simply means that the will is in the testator’s own handwriting.
Contact Us for Help Making a Valid Will
If you need help making a valid will in New Jersey, contact an estate planning attorney at Smith & Doran. We are here to help you protect your interests and property.