The phrase “estate planning” can send a shiver up anyone’s spine. But it’s really not as daunting as you think. In New Jersey, it’s important to set up an estate to help your loved ones avoid confusion and disputes over what to do with your money and property after your death. Two of the most common ways you can secure the distribution of your estate is through a will and through a living trust. Learn the differences below, and don’t forget to contact our firm for more information!
What Is a Will?
A Last Will and Testament is a public record of the decedent’s final wishes and has three main components: 1) how their real and personal assets shall be distributed; 2) guardianship for children under 18; and 3) who shall execute the will, or make sure it is carried out properly, after the decedent’s death. Anybody 18 years of age or older, of a sound mind, may create a will. In order for it to be effective, a will must be either handwritten or typed, and signed by the decedent and two witnesses. New Jersey law permits any competent person to be a witness, even if they hold an interest in a part of the will. A will also has the advantage of instructing the beneficiaries about paying taxes and debts relating to your estate.
What Is a Living Trust?
A living trust has the advantage of not requiring your loved ones to go through probate court proceedings after your death in order to distribute your estate. Unlike a will, a living trust is distributed while you’re still alive. You will have to designate a trustee, who will be responsible for carrying out the distribution of the estate to relevant beneficiaries. There are two types of living trusts: irrevocable, which cannot be modified or changed, and revocable, which can be modified and changed as needed. Unlike a will, you cannot establish guardianship for minor children under a living trust, and you cannot provide instructions on how to pay taxes and debts. A living trust also doesn’t require witnesses, but it does require a notary public. The state of New Jersey has established a Uniform Probate Code that simplifies the process of court proceedings to execute a will, so whether you want to create a living trust instead of, or in addition to, a will, it is really up to you.
At GC Law Firm, we have experience helping clients draft both types of documents. Contact us at (201)-488-1825, or send us a message through our website, to get started!