Why do I need an attorney to help me write my will?
While you have the option to prepare a will yourself or with the help of online tools, know that neither approach provides the comprehensive guidance and clarity that an attorney can. When you work with a New Jersey estate planning attorney, they can help you analyze all important factors. That includes how to prepare for taxes and probate, as well as additional estate planning aspects you may not have considered, such as an advance directive.
Making your estate plans clear and straightforward allows the property distribution process that much easier — and significantly less stressful — for the loved ones that you are some day going to leave behind. Yet, too many individuals put off creating a will or keeping theirs up-to-date. In fact, according to a study conducted by AARP, 2 in 5 Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a prepared will.
If you don’t decide the future of your assets, state laws determine who they go to. Your intended heirs will have zero say in property distribution. They may also be burdened with unexpected taxes and procedural obligations, all of which can be prepared for with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer in New Jersey. Together, you and your attorney work to ensure that your wishes are clearly understandable and executable under New Jersey law.
Reach out to Van Dyck Law for will preparation and estate planning assistance to get started. We promise to make the process not just easy but also rewarding, in that it allows you to know with confidence that you have prepared for the most common scenarios that lie ahead.
Many people fail to realize that, when it comes to estate planning, if you decide not to draft a valid will, there are procedures that automatically dictate what happens to your belongings. These procedures are collectively referred to as “intestate succession” since they refer to someone who has died without a last will and testament.
Intestate succession laws vary from state to state, but in all cases, your closest and most-trusted loved ones have no say over what happens to the estate you leave behind. Instead, New Jersey state laws, for example, say that the entirety of your estate goes to one group of individuals, most often the surviving spouse and/or children.
You may also be considered intestate if you decide to prepare a will without understanding the requirements to make your estate plan valid and executable. Just because you wrote down who you want your assets to go to, it does not necessarily mean that your wishes can be well-understood or executed. That risk is a prime reason why it is important to have an attorney at the very least review such an important set of documents.
New Jersey’s intestate laws say that, if you leave behind a spouse and children of the same marriage, your spouse will inherit the entire estate. But, if you had children from another marriage, no surviving spouse, or other dependent stepchildren, grandchildren, or parents who survived you, the estate will be distributed according to a set ratio. This can not only complicate things if your intention was to give some of your estate to others, but it will also likely force your intestate beneficiaries to liquidate all physical property in order to cover taxes and other expenses.
Many websites promise a simple do-it-yourself will drafting process. They claim they make it easy for anyone to draft and finalize their will without professional help. However, they acknowledge that without an attorney and without the proper guidance, something could go wrong and your will could be declared invalid. In most cases, lack of validity wouldn’t be addressed until it was too late.
Many DIY estate planning sites are even missing essential documents that are commonly overlooked. For example, part of estate planning involves reviewing your beneficiaries for life insurance, joint property ownership agreements, and other aspects that don’t need to invoke a will to come into effect. You can also anticipate issues like going through probate and paying estate taxes immediately upon transfer — both of which can be mitigated or almost entirely avoided through the estate planning process.
Working with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in New Jersey allows you to anticipate all aspects of the estate planning process. That includes details that are commonly overlooked.
Your attorney can help you go over the entirety of the most important considerations, including:
- Review all property, assets, debts, and contents of your estate
- Advance planning for estate taxes, administration costs, and probate
- Help you understand the most common legal arrangements
- Help you write a will that is clear and can be legally executed
- Advise you about planning beyond a will, such as forming an advance directive or charitable trust
While for some people it can feel awkward or intimidating to share the details of all your personal assets and to discuss which heirs are most valued, your attorney can help you become comfortable with the subject matter — and allow you to focus on what matters most. They will act as your counsel and guide, giving valuable advice when it applies, sharing wisdom about past experiences, or just being someone to discuss your wishes and what kind of legacy you would like to leave behind.
Regardless, walking through this kind of experience alone can make you feel alone and less confident in the work that you put in. After all, without a professional’s input, you can’t be completely sure that your will creation was done correctly. An attorney means security not only for your assets but also for your own peace of mind.
Do-it-yourself estate plans are at high risk for major or minor complications along the way, and your closest loved ones will be left to deal with the aftermath. One of the most common results is extreme delays in distribution. Expect probate to take six months to a year, and more-complicated estate plans may take an additional six months. But even simple issues can drag this process out for years, especially when a lack of clarity leads to a contested will or other issues.
Not to mention, certain complications will result in your will not being considered valid in the eyes of the law. In these cases, your assets will then be distributed according to your state’s default estate laws.
The only way to be certain of your DIY will’s validity is to have the documentation assessed by a legal professional, so it is prudent to build a relationship with an estate planning attorney from the start, so they can ensure that everything is drafted smoothly the first time.
As the saying goes, “it is better to be safe than sorry.” Do not leave the future of your assets up to the state. Take control of your estate by putting together a plan recognized by the court that ensures the safety of your most precious belongings.
While it may feel like the easier, and cheaper route, a do-it-yourself estate plan can leave you with more questions, rather than reassuring you of the safety of your assets. Don’t risk leaving your loved ones confused and scrambling. Build a foundation for a calm transition, giving your family more time to focus on what really matters.
The attorneys at Van Dyck Law Group have decades of experience developing estate plans for people like you who want peace of mind knowing that their assets are protected. Schedule a no-obligation consultation with an attorney by calling (609) 293-2562, or you can contact us online!