The process for making a will is similar in every state, but each state has its own laws about wills. A lot of the requirements follow the same ideas, but every state has very specific legislation governing wills—from who can make them to what makes them valid, all of this varies state-by-state. For the court to recognize your will as valid, you must make a will in New Jersey following the specific state statutes. Otherwise, the court may not accept your will. When choosing to make an online will, you want to use an online will making service with a template designed for the state.
Can I make a will online in New Jersey?
Yes, you can make a will online in New Jersey as long as you are at least 18 years of age (though lawfully married minors may also make a will) and of sound mind. Sound mind generally means that the person making the will can not have been deemed incompetent in prior legal proceedings.
We recommend an online making service to make your will, as this guarantees a template customized for the state. Our choice for the most comprehensive online will tool is Trust&Will, and our budget pick is USLegalWills; see all our reviews of online will making tools here.
A will must meet the following requirements to be valid in New Jersey:
- The will must be in writing, and the Testator must intend on using the document as a last will and testament.
- The will must be signed by the Testator; and
- The will must be signed by at least two individuals, both of whom must sign within a reasonable time after either seeing the Testator sign or hearing the Testator acknowledge their signature or the will.
The two witnesses can be anyone generally competent to act as a witness in legal proceedings. New Jersey state law allows your witnesses to be “interested parties” (that is, your witnesses can also be beneficiaries in the will). Having “interested parties” as witnesses does not invalidate your will. However, in case someone contests the will, it is always better to have “disinterested parties” as witnesses.
If you make an online will in New Jersey, you must print it out. Some states are beginning to allow electronic wills (which are digital-only wills that are made, signed, and witnessed all electronically). However, the state of New Jersey does not allow digital-only wills. You will need a paper copy with physical signatures for the will to be recognized as valid.
Does New Jersey require a notarized will?
No, New Jersey does not require you to notarize your will to make it valid. The first step in the probate court process is for the court to determine if it was made and executed in compliance with the specific state requirements. Though you do not have to notarize your will, New Jersey does allow a will to be “self-proved.” When a will is “self-proved,” the court can generally accept the validity of the will without needing the testimony of the witnesses.
For a will to be “self-proved,” it is not the will itself that gets notarized. Instead, you and your witnesses will make sworn statements before a notary public. Both your statement and your witnesses’ statement must substantially follow the form written in the New Jersey state code (found here).
These sworn statements serve to act as your and your witnesses’ testimony to the authenticity of the will. You will get these notarized, and then attach them to the will. After doing so, your will is now considered “self-proved.”
Can I name an executor in New Jersey?
When you make a will in New Jersey, online or otherwise, you can name the executor of your estate. An executor is a person appointed to handle all the legal matters pertaining to settling an estate, making sure that the will is followed after the Testator’s death. You want to name an executor in your will, otherwise the probate court will appoint someone. This can hold up the probate process while the court determines who to appoint.
New Jersey does not provide any specific requirements for an executor; you are free to name any adult person that you trust. You want to choose someone you know well, someone who is honest and organized—and you should definitely discuss the idea of them acting as the executor before you actually name them. A person can decline, which means the court will then have to appoint someone. If you name someone as the executor in a will in New Jersey, unless they decline, the court must appoint them to act as the executor unless there is “clear evidence” that they are not suitable to serve.
To name an executor who lives out-of-state, there are some specific guidelines in New Jersey:
- Unless your will specifically waives the requirement of a bond, a nonresident executor must post bond to serve as the executor.
Do I need an attorney to make a will in New Jersey?
No, an attorney is not required to make a will in New Jersey. In certain circumstances—for instance, if you have a large or complex estate—it is a good idea to consult an estatement planning attorney for legal advice. For the most part, with a simple estate and a relatively direct will, online will making is a convenient option. You want to follow the legal requirements for New Jersey, in order for your will to be valid, and you should use an online will making service that offers state-specific templates.
What types of wills are valid in New Jersey?
Any kind of will which meets the governmental and state-requisites, made online or otherwise, is a legitimate, valid will in New Jersey.
Can I make a holographic will in New Jersey?
A holographic will is a will that is handwritten and signed by the Testator (typically, with no attesting witnesses). New Jersey does recognize holographic wills as valid if the material portions and the signature are in the Testator’s handwriting.
While holographic wills are considered legally binding if they meet the above criteria, these types of wills often face delays in probate. The handwriting has to be proven authentic; oftentimes, the Testator forgets to include important provisions or the will has unclear language.
To avoid long legal delays, it is better to use an online will making service with a template designed for New Jersey (which you then must sign and have witnessed).
Can I make a nuncupative or video will in New Jersey?
A nuncupative will is an oral will, which is sometimes left in a video. A nuncupative will is generally considered as an emergency or last resort type of will. It is better to leave some instructions than none at all, if a person is facing imminent death. However, New Jersey does not recognize nuncupative wills as valid.
The court will not recognize a nuncupative will and hold the terms enforceable, though your heirs and beneficiaries may agree on them and settle the estate in that way. It is always better, if time and health allow, to make a legally binding will. Otherwise, the probate process may become lengthy and complicated.
How is a living will different from an online will in New Jersey?
A last will and testament is a legally binding document that contains matters pertaining to a person’s estate, as well as other matters like guardianship for minor children. A living will, on the other hand, is a separate legal document that gives instructions on medical decisions and end-of-life care should you become incapacitated. You can make both a last will and testament and a living will online. For more information on living wills or power of attorney in New Jersey, you can go here.
A living will is also known as an advance directive. For an advance directive to be legally binding in New Jersey, the following is required:
- It must be printed out.
- It must be either notarized, or
- It must be signed and dated in front of two adult witnesses who must also sign and date the document. Neither of the witnesses can be your named healthcare representative or alternate healthcare representative.
After you make your living will valid, you will want to make copies of it to give to your family members, doctors, your healthcare representative, and any other trusted person. It is your responsibility to let people know that you have a living will.
Why do I need to make a will online in New Jersey?
When someone dies intestate, or without a will, the intestacy laws of New Jersey determine what happens to the decedent’s estate. The court will also name someone to be a guardian for any minor children as well as name someone as the executor of the estate. The estate is then divided between surviving family members according to the intestacy distribution laws of the particular state. Intestacy laws typically distribute the estate beginning with the decedent’s closest relatives. If the court exhausts the list and finds no surviving family, the state of New Jersey will take ownership of the estate.
This whole process can become long, arduous, and complicated. Often, property is held up in probate for months or even years at a time. Having a valid will in place can help speed up this process.
If you have any minor children, it is important to make a will to name guardians for them. If you own property and want to divide it in a specific way (or leave it to non-family members), you can only do that if you make a will in New Jersey.
What can I include in an online will in New Jersey?
When you make an online will, the most important things to include are the executor of your estate and guardians for any minors. In addition to that, you can include the following when you make an online will in New Jersey:
- You can appoint someone as a guardian to oversee any property left to minor children.
- You can choose someone to care for any remaining pets.
- You can specify how you want to leave any property, life insurance policies, or gifts to family members, loved ones, charities, or other organizations.
- You can request who will receive family heirlooms, personal property, and sentimental items.
- You can also request what to do with personal or sentimental items.
What should not be included in a will in New Jersey?
You should not include any medical directives, end-of-life care, or funeral instructions in a will. A last will and testament is not the right place for these instructions because, typically, a will is not read until after the funeral (which is usually arranged immediately). If you leave any of these in your last will and testament, it is likely that your family will not know about them.
For medical directives and end-of-life care, you want to create a living will or power of attorney document. This is the only way to make these types of decisions legally binding. You will want to make the fact that you have a living will known to your family and to your doctors, making copies for them. Otherwise, a living will is not effective.
For funeral instructions, you can simply have a conversation with a family member. There is no formal document required. If you want, you can make a separate document that describes your wishes for your funeral arrangements. You can give this to the executor of your estate or another trusted person, so that they can refer back to when planning the funeral.
Can I change or revoke an online will made in New Jersey?
Whether made online or not, when you have a valid will, it is a legally binding document. But, you can change or revoke your will at any time. A will made online is revoked in the same way as a will made otherwise.
If you make a will in New Jersey and want to change or revoke it, you can do so in the following ways:
- By executing of a new will that expressly revokes the previous will or revokes it by inconsistency; or
- By performing a revocatory act (burning, tearing, obliterating, or otherwise destroying) on the will with the intent of revoking it.
- By directing someone else to perform a revocatory act on the will in your presence.
With any major life change, an update to your will should come with it. For big life changes—like marriage, birth or adoption of a child, relocation to another state or country, or acquisition of new assets—that may require a lot of changes, you should write a new will that explicitly revokes the old one. If you are making only minor changes, you can add an amendment to your will instead. This is called a codicil, and it must be finalized with the same formalities as a will.
How do I finalize an online will in New Jersey?
To finalize a will you make online in New Jersey, take these steps:
- Print it out,
- Sign or acknowledge your signature or the will in front of witnesses, and
- Have the two witnesses sign the will within a reasonable time of either their seeing you sign or hearing your acknowledgement.
To make a will “self-proved” in New Jersey, you and your witnesses will all need to make sworn statements in an affidavit in front of a notary public. Attach these to your will in order for it to be “self-proved.”
Be sure to consider these special considerations in New Jersey:
- The Secretary of State of New Jersey maintains a will registry. The registry does not contain a copy of the will, but it does include the name of who made the will, the date it was made, and the location of the will at the time of registration. There is a $10.00 registration fee. The purpose of the registry is only to make public (only to “interested persons” of a will, not general) that a person has a will and the last known location of the will. As there are many reasons that a will may be forgotten about, it is a way to safely register the existence of a will.
- If you divorce (or your marriage is annulled), New Jersey law automatically revokes any language to your leaving anything to your former spouse as well as removes them as executor if you named them such. In addition, this also applies to any relatives of your former spouse. If you wonder how a divorce affects your will, it is best to see an estate planning attorney.
We tested multiple online will services to find out which ones produce the best last will and testament. Of all the wills we created—and had our lawyer review—Trust&Will had the best end product. Our budget pick for a fast and reliable online last will and testament is USLegalWills.