The many challenges that people in New Jersey and around the country have faced over the past year and a half have contributed to the uncertainty many people feel for what the future holds. For many, creating an estate plan is one way to have a measure of control over how things are going no matter what happens.
A survey that came out earlier this year shows a significant trend among younger adults who have taken steps toward setting estate planning goals. For the first time, adults aged 18 to 34 are more likely to have a will than adults who are 35 to 54 years old. The number of young adults who have started estate planning with a will has gone up by 69% since last year.
What a will is and what it does
A will is essentially a legal instrument that formalizes the wishes of the individual who creates it, called the testator, concerning the:
- care of minor children,
- appointment of a personal representative (PR) to oversee the estate,
- distribution of assets of the creator’s estate,
- if there is a trust, allocation of assets through the trust for the future financial needs of minor children, for charitable causes, for a pet, or to minimize probate administration and taxes.
The will goes into effect on the death of the testator when the PR submits the will to probate court and the court appoints the PR to oversee the administration of the estate.
The importance of a will
It is essential to emphasize the importance of choosing someone as PR who the testator knows well and trusts. This person must be competent and willing to see the probate process through to the end, making sure that named beneficiaries will receive the estate’s assets and that all debts and taxes are settled.
With a will, the individual can name a guardian who will take care of the children and also direct how assets should be directed toward the children’s needs.
If there is no will, the estate is intestate. Probate court will direct not only the choice of executor and deduct court costs from the estate, but it will follow New Jersey intestate succession laws in allocating assets to beneficiaries. Any minor children may become wards of the state if there is no named guardian, unless a relative or friend petitions the court for guardianship.
For residents of Ocean County, it can be beneficial to get more information on estate planning options with attention to their unique concerns as they plan ahead.