How Do I Execute a Will?

If you don't yet have a will, you are not alone. Many people are intimidated by the idea of creating a will, but you shouldn't be. A last will and testament can help you feel secure about the future for you and your loved ones. Here we'll provide more information about creating a will, how to do a living will, and what happens in probate court.

Creating a Will

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. For example, you can use your will to:

  • Leave your property to designated people and organizations
  • Name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • Name a person to manage property you leave to your minor children
  • Name the person who makes sure the terms of your will are followed

You can make your own will in New Jersey, but to finalize your will you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and your witnesses must sign your will as well. It's wise, however, to consult a lawyer regarding your will to make sure it is legally sound. A will that is not drafted and executed correctly can be contested and held up in probate court for months or years, and possibly never given effect.

What is a living will?

If an illness, accident, or advanced age prevents you from directing your own medical care, a living will can ensure your wishes regarding medical treatment are carried out. In New Jersey, there is a living will form for naming a trusted person to direct your health care if you cannot do so yourself. This living will form is commonly called a power of attorney, but in New Jersey it's called a "proxy directive."

Another living will form is a document setting out the types of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in certain situations. In New Jersey this form is called an "instruction directive." Examples of living wills like this include your preferences regarding life support and artificially provided nutrition and hydration.

What Happens in Probate Court?

In probate court, a deceased person's assets are collected and inventoried, debts and taxes are paid, and remaining assets are distributed to the people who inherit them. If a person dies with a will, these steps will take place according to the directives of the will. If a person dies without a will (intestate), the probate court will appoint an administrator to handle the estate according to New Jersey's simplified probate procedures.

Contact Smith & Doran for Help Creating a Will

If you have questions about creating a will, how to do a living will, or what happens in probate court, please contact The Law Offices of Smith & Doran, P.C., to schedule a consultation. We can help you protect your property and dignity.