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Ocean County Estate Planning Blog

Validating handwritten wills

The issue of creating a will can often be a contentious one, which may be why so many tend to avoid doing it (at least publicly). Many in Ocean County  & believe the estate planning process must be a formal affair, where you and other potential parties to an estate should be called together to provide your input into how your loved one should disperse their assets. Yet does your family member or friend have an obligation to include you in this process? No, they do not. In fact, some may simply write our their will themselves and then pass them on to the appropriate parties. Here at Campbell & Pruchnik, LLC, many often ask us if such a will is even valid. 

The requirements for executing a will in New Jersey can be found in Section 3B:3-2 of the state's Statutes. Here it states that a will must be executed in the following way in order to be valid: 

  • It must be in writing 
  • It must be signed by your loved one (or by someone who has their permission, and in their presence)
  • It must be signed by two eligible witnesses

Thinking about estate planning and property transfer?

One of the most valuable assets you have is likely a piece of property, such as your main residence, or a beach house you offer as a vacation rental.

When you think about estate planning, the transfer of real property may be uppermost in your mind. What is the best way to approach this? Here are two ideas you may wish to explore.

Moving to a new state and your estate plan

Relocation can be stressful for an array of reasons, from financial considerations related to moving (such as buying or selling a home and starting a new job) to the emotional impact that the move may have on loved ones. People often move for new and lucrative opportunities and to gain a fresh start on life, but it is essential to make sure that all important issues are taken into consideration before moving, such as the potential impact that relocation may have on an estate plan. There are a number of ways in which your estate plan could be affected by relocating to a different state.

Typically, trusts and wills that are created in one state are recognized in other states. However, it is important to understand that the laws may vary from one state to the next. Moreover, estate-related laws in the state you are moving to may be more favorable with respect to some aspect of your estate plan, and it may be necessary to make changes to your estate plan to take advantage of this situation. For example, you may be able to modify your estate plan to make it more favorable from a tax standpoint.

Intestate succession in New Jersey

Perhaps the most important element of estate planning in Ocean County is actually choosing to do it. It is a decision that many American adults have yet to make (indeed, according to research information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, 6 in 10 have no estate planning documents). Those who die without a will force their estates to become subject to intestate succession. This is a state-controlled process in which the dispersal of one's assets are regulated by the law (and not the wishes of their heirs). 

New Jersey's intestate succession regulations can be found in Section 3B.5 of the state's General Statutes. According to the law, one's surviving spouse would inherit the entire amount of their intestate estate if a decedent has no surviving descendants (or if their surviving descendants are also the direct descendants of the surviving spouse). If one or more of one's descendants are not those of the surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse also has descendants that are not related to the decedent, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first 25 percent of the estate's assets (not be less than $50,000 or greater than $200,000), plus 50 percent of the remaining amount of the estate. They would also be entitled to the first 25 percent if the decedent is survived by their parents (but no descendants). Their entitlement to the remaining amount of the estate would then increase to 75 percent. 

Family disagreement over power of attorney

When it comes to power of attorney, there are many considerations to go over before giving someone these responsibilities. Power of attorney can be immensely helpful for a number of reasons, as we have discussed on our blog. However, it is essential to identify the most suitable candidate when naming a power of attorney, and there are times when other challenges may arise as a result of this process. For example, there may be disagreement in the family over power of attorney, and this can lead to a contentious dispute.

Sometimes, an older adult may feel that one of their children is the most ideal person to designate with regard to power of attorney responsibilities. However, other children may disagree with this decision, believing that they should have been given these responsibilities. In some cases, this can lead to a contentious dispute between siblings, which may create a rift in the family. This is why it is so important to not only carefully consider who to give these responsibilities to, but the different ways in which this may impact the entire family.

Estate planning and low-income individuals

When some people picture the type of person who sets up an estate plan, they may envision someone who is wealthy and owns a considerable amount of property. To be sure, estate plans are especially important for people in this position, but even low-income individuals benefit from estate plans. By setting up a will or creating a trust, those with low incomes are able to not only protect what they have but make things easier for their loved ones down the road. Moreover, there are other aspects of estate planning, such as power of attorney, which can be extremely important regardless of how much money one makes or their net worth.

Some people assume that because they are facing financial challenges, setting up an estate plan is unimportant. Regrettably, this can complicate things for their family members when they pass away. Creating an estate plan can help you take control of your assets and how they are managed later on, and your loved ones may be very grateful that you took the time to take these matters into consideration beforehand.

Harper Lee estate sued by production company

The process of estate planning in Ocean County is a fluid one that is not necessarily complete with the drafting of a will or other estate management instruments. Circumstances will certainly change over time, which could cause one to rethink earlier decisions and revise their estate documents to reflect their current wishes. The question then becomes which provisions are valid: those that were made initially or the revisions? 

Such is the question being raised in a dispute between a publishing company and the estate of the renowned novelist Harper Lee. In a claim filed against the Lee estate, representatives of the publishing company say that the author gave permission to its playwriter back in 1969 to create a stage adaptation of the novel . However, prior to her death, Lee gave permission to another producer in 2015 to come up with an updated version (which is currently being performed on Broadway). The 2015 agreement reportedly amended the terms of the one created in 1969, barring the earlier adaption from being performed in areas where the current one is running. 

Retirement and estate plans

People choose to set up estate plans at different points in their lives. Some may create a trust or a will during their younger years, while others may wait until they are much older. Some people may choose to create an estate plan after the birth of their child, and retirement is another turning point in life which may result in the development of an estate plan. There are a handful of reasons why retirement is a great time to set up an estate plan, from financial changes and concerns about one's future estate to more free time.

If you have recently retired, you may be thinking about how to protect the assets that you have acquired over the years and an estate that you have worked so hard for. Or, perhaps you are thinking about when to retire and this has also made you focus on your estate. Either way, you should not push off setting up an estate plan, since doing so can offer a number of benefits. Not only will your estate be protected in the event that something unexpected happens, but you may also find some peace in knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to protect your assets and provide for those you love in the future.

Estate planning and family disagreement

Handling estate planning matters can be hard for different reasons, but some people have an especially difficult time when it comes to setting up an estate plan. For example, some people have a lot of uncertainty over how to distribute their assets, and some may worry about how their decisions will affect those they love. In some families, there is a lot of drama and disagreement, such as sibling rivalries and estranged family members, and it can be particularly hard to approach an estate plan in this environment. However, it is especially vital to make sure that your estate is set up properly if you are facing these difficulties in your own family.

There are many different aspects of an estate plan to consider, whether you set up a will or any type of trust. You should think about how your assets will be divided among beneficiaries and who you will place in charge of the estate. You should also think about how this could affect family members such as children, grandchildren and other relatives. Sometimes, talking to those you love about your estate plan can provide a clearer understanding of how you should move forward, but it may be best to make these decisions on your own.


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19 N. County Line Road
Jackson, NJ 08527

Phone: 732-994-6092
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