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5 Different Types of Wills

Last updated on: April 9, 2024

When it comes to planning for the future, drafting a will is a critical step in ensuring that your assets and wishes are respected and carried out upon your passing. However, many people may not realize that there are different types of wills, each suited to different situations and needs. From the traditional simple will that may suffice for straightforward estates, to reciprocal wills, understanding the nuances between these types can make a significant difference in estate planning. In this blog post, we’ll explore 5 different types of wills, shedding light on their unique features and helping you determine which might be the right fit for your circumstances.

As you navigate the complexities of estate planning, it’s important to have experienced guidance tailored to your specific situation. A will is not just a legal document; it’s the cornerstone of your legacy and peace of mind for your loved ones. Don’t leave this crucial task to chance. At The Matus Law Group, our team of New Jersey wills attorneys may be able to provide personalized assistance in creating a will that aligns seamlessly with your goals and legal requirements. Contact us today at (732) 281 – 0060 to schedule a consultation.

Wills are a commonly used tool in the world of estate planning, allowing testators to list their final wishes, layout their preferred division of assets, and provide for their heirs after their passing. There are many types of Wills, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Read on to learn more.

The Importance of Having a Last Will and Testament

The laws governing intestacy will determine how an estate’s assets are distributed if the person passes away without a will. The intestacy rules may not coincide with the decedent’s wishes, which is why having a last will and testament is generally advisable.

Although a last will and testament may serve many purposes, one of its greatest benefits is that the testator can choose the executor of his estate. This person will be responsible for fulfilling the wishes in the will. It is a good idea to make provisions in advance so that the testator can feel confident that his estate will be in the best hands. Without a will, the court will select the executor.

The most important part of a will is to describe how assets like houses, cash, and business ventures should be divided upon the death of the testator. The testator may also designate a guardian for minor kids in their last will and testament.

wills lawyer in New Jersey

Wills Attorney Christine Matus has years of experience in helping families create estate plans to ensure that their legacy is in good hands. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

Simple Will

Also known as a statutory Will, a simple Will is often suitable for those with straightforward small estates. These Wills tend to be formulaic, so they’re relatively easy to put together in a short period of time. However, not all states recognize simple Wills and it’s difficult to express all of your last wishes with this type of estate plan.

Pour-Over Will

If you have a living trust, you may choose a pour-over Will. A pour-over Will is designed to award assets to the testator’s living trust. A living trust may include a substantial amount of the decedent’s property at the time of their death. The pour-over Will grants any property still in the testator’s possession at the time of death to the living trust, where it can then be distributed to beneficiaries.

Holographic Will

New Jersey is one of the few states where a handwritten will can be valid. New Jersey does not require any witnesses to holographic wills as long as the Will is written by the testator and in their own handwriting. According to N.J.S.A, 3B:3-2B, a Holographic Will can be considered and admitted for Probate if it contains the signature and material portions in the handwriting of the Decedent. This means that all provisions of the Will that dispose of the property of the deceased must be written in the testator’s handwriting, and not another person’s. The Will must be signed only by the Decedent, and not any other party. A Holographic Will is a simple instrument that can be used to describe how a Decedent wishes to transfer property.

Deathbed Will

Oral Wills are often known as “deathbed” wills since they’re typically spoken by the decedent shortly prior to passing away. A testator may dictate this type of Will in front of multiple witnesses to ensure that it is respected. However, some states do not recognize deathbed or oral Wills. They are often contested and can lead to a drawn-out court battle.

Reciprocal/Joint/Mutual Wills

Couples may choose to write reciprocal, joint, or mutual Wills. A reciprocal Will grants the entire estate to the surviving spouse. A joint Will is a single document that outlines each person’s wishes. Mutual Wills are identical but separate documents that name the surviving spouse as the beneficiary. These documents also list mutually agreed upon beneficiaries for when both spouses die.

Type of Will Description
Simple Will Also known as a statutory Will, suitable for straightforward small estates. Formulaic and relatively easy to create, but may not cover all last wishes in some states.
Pour-Over Will Designed for those with living trusts, it directs assets to the trust. Useful for ensuring all assets are managed according to the trust’s terms.
Holographic Will A handwritten Will, valid in select states like New Jersey. Must be entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. Limited in expressing complex estate plans.
Deathbed Will Oral Wills spoken by the decedent near death. Not recognized in all states and often contested.
Reciprocal/Joint/Mutual Wills Couples may opt for Reciprocal wills (leaving everything to the surviving spouse), Joint wills (single document for both), or Mutual wills (separate but identical).

What Type of Will Do I Need?

Identifying the right type of will for your situation is a fundamental step in ensuring your legacy is handled according to your wishes. The necessity of a will cannot be overstated; it provides clear instructions for the distribution of your assets and care for your dependents, and it can help avoid potential disputes among your heirs.

Generally, everyone needs a will, but the complexity of that will vary depending on individual circumstances. If you have dependents, own property, or have specific ideas about how you want your estate managed, you will require a will that adequately reflects these needs.

The simplest wills can designate an executor, dictate how to pay debts and taxes, and specify beneficiaries for your possessions. However, for those with larger or more complicated estates, different considerations may come into play, often requiring more complex wills.

Factors that influence the type of will you need include the size of your estate, the nature of your assets, whether you have minor children, if you wish to leave donations to charity, or if you need to account for the possibility of future changes in your family or financial status.

In any case, the most important step is to start the process. Consult with a legal professional who can guide you through the options and help craft a will that meets your specific needs and gives you peace of mind. Remember, the goal of a will is to ensure that your wishes are honored and your loved ones are cared for in the best way possible.

There are many estate planning options available to you. This is perhaps one of the most important legal documents you’ll draw up in your lifetime. Get the personalized assistance you need by contacting The Matus Law Group at (732) 281-0060.

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus
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