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Why everyone in New Jersey needs a will

Many people in New Jersey assume that estate planning is only necessary for the rich and the famous. People think that unless they have multiple properties or a million-dollar heirloom that they do not need a will or trust. In reality, that could not be further from correct.

A recent article by a Globe Correspondent said that the only downside of a will is not having one. When people do not write wills, they forfeit their right to decide what they want to happen to their property after their death. Even individuals who do not have large estates can benefit from writing a will.

If you have a small estate and think the division of your property is straightforward, think again. What would happen to your property if you and your spouse died at the same time? Although it can be frightening to think about those scenarios, it is important to make sure you have an estate plan that addresses those situations. Have you named a guardian for your young children? If minor children are inheriting property or money, how should it be managed until they are old enough to receive it?

When you are thinking about creating a will, there are two main routes most people take - working with an attorney or creating a "do it yourself" will. Do it yourself legal documents can be tempting. They are typically less expensive than meeting with an attorney, and you can work on your own timeline.

However, there are also pitfalls to creating your own will or trust. If there are mistakes with verbiage or if details are overlooked, your will can be disallowed. Lawyers know exactly how to word legal documents, and they often have additional knowledge for saving money during the estate administration process. Although they may cost a little more money upfront, working with a professional is often more cost-efficient in the long run.

Source: Boston Globe, "The only downside of a will - regardless of your age - is not having one," Elliot Raphaelson, 10 May 2011

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