If you die without a will in New Jersey, the court steps in. Probate freezes all of your assets until the court ensures that all relevant parties received notification of your passing, it receives a property appraisal and creditors get paid. This process can take several months. By having a will, you can minimize the amount of time your property remains frozen, allowing your family access to your bank accounts, vehicles and other assets.
According to Fidelity, a will is a legal document that disperses your assets per your wishes after you pass away and may appoint guardians for minor children.
Determining the contents of a will
A simple will can help you avoid dissension among family members after your death. It typically includes the following:
- Beneficiaries – Individuals who inherit your assets
- Executor – The person who carries out the provision of the will, chosen by you
- Guardians – Individuals you designate to care for your minor or adult disabled children
- Instructions – Details regarding how and when beneficiaries receive your property
Not all assets go through probate as they have named beneficiaries, such as IRAs, 401(k)s and insurance policies. Your home and other assets with joint ownership with rights of survivorship usually go to your spouse.
Creating an estate plan
You don’t need to have significant wealth to benefit from an estate plan. If you have children, you may want to ensure they have money for college. Setting up a trust can help them pay for their education and avoid paying inheritance taxes.
Another vital element of an estate plan is preparing documentation that addresses your wishes if you become incapacitated. It can name someone to help someone handle your financial affairs and a proxy for your healthcare wishes. Whether you prefer a simple will or take the additional step and create an estate plan, you gain peace of mind by knowing that you can take care of your family long after you have passed on.