On June 27, 2022, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act was introduced to the New Jersey Senate. If the bill is passed into law, it will enable the use of electronic Wills (eWills). If you live in the Garden State, this means that you’ll likely soon be able to conveniently create and execute your Will online. This guide will introduce everything you need to know about creating your online Will in New Jersey.
What You Need to Know About Making a Will Online in New Jersey
The Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA) is a legislative bill that was crafted by the Uniform Law Commission. The goal of the 2019 UEWA is to allow Testators to legally execute an electronic or online Will that will be recognized by the probate court in their jurisdiction. Because probate law is enacted by the state, these laws must be adopted in each state before residents can choose this option. So far, several U.S. states have adopted either the UEWA or their own version of an electronic Wills act.
At the time that this article was written (August 2023), New Jersey is one of three states that have introduced the bill. The next few sections will address several questions you may have regarding this important and historic change.
How Much Does a Will Cost in New Jersey?
An individual wanting to get their affairs in order in New Jersey will typically spend an average of $300 to $1,000 to draft a Will. If they wish to establish a Trust, the cost can amount up to several thousand dollars.
These costs vary based on the estate planning attorney used, the hourly rate charged, and the amount of hours billed for their services. An individual may have higher estate planning costs if they choose an attorney with specialty experience or have a complex estate.
Luckily, residents of the Garden State will soon have the option to spend less on the process of estate planning. Wills that are created online often come at a fraction of the cost. This is because online platforms such as Trust & Will offer customers digital tools that are streamlined and affordable. Customers create their estate planning documents using the platform that was created by expert attorneys rather than hiring their own. For instance, you can create a Will through Trust & Will’s platform starting at just $159 and have peace of mind knowing that it is legally valid.
What are the Requirements for an Online Will to Be Valid in New Jersey?
For an online Will to be valid in New Jersey, you must meet the following requirements:
The Testator must have the intent of using the document as their Last Will and Testament.
The Testator must create the Will in writing (typing or word processing is included in this definition.)
The Will must be signed by the Testator.
A minimum of two witnesses must watch the Testator sign the Will and provide their own signatures shortly thereafter.
The Will must be printed on paper as a physical document with original, wet ink signatures.
Notarizing the Will is optional.
In New Jersey, your witnesses can be anyone of your choice, so long as they are competent to serve as a legal witness in any general proceeding. Interested parties, such as your beneficiaries, may also serve as your witnesses. However, it is typically best practice to ask non-interested parties to serve as your witnesses in case anyone decides to contest your Will. In other words, it’s recommended to choose someone who is neutral.
Also note that at the time of the writing of this article, New Jersey has introduced a bill to recognize electronic Wills as legally valid, but it is not yet passed. This means that if you create an online Will in New Jersey, you must print it out. Several states are beginning to recognize digital Wills that are created, signed, witnessed, and stored electronically. However, these digital-only Wills must be expressly recognized by state law. It is a matter of time before the Garden State begins to allow these digital-only Wills. In the meantime, you can still create your Will online but must print it onto paper and use physical signatures in order for it to be legally valid.
Last but not least, New Jersey law does not require you to notarize your Will. However, you and your witnesses can get the Will notarized to make the document self-proving in probate court. This means that the court will typically be able to accept the Will as valid without requiring the testimony of your witnesses.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in New Jersey?
No, you do not need a lawyer to make a Will in New Jersey. It is not required by state law. However, you may find it helpful or even necessary to consult a lawyer in certain circumstances, such as if your estate is particularly complex or when there are strained family dynamics.
Otherwise, if you have a relatively straightforward estate and want to get your affairs in order at a fraction of the cost, you can use an online Will platform like Trust & Will. Not only is it affordable and convenient, it is easy to use and guides you through the estate planning process step-by-step through a series of prompts and questions.
How Do I Sign My Will in New Jersey?
Currently in New Jersey, you must sign your Will in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign your Will within a “reasonable time” after you signed or acknowledged your Will.
The Garden State allows interested parties who stand to inherit assets from the estate, per the Will, to act as witnesses. Typically, however, it is recommended to utilize disinterested parties as your witnesses when possible. This can help reduce the risk of a claim that an interested witness had undue influence over you at the time of signing.
Handwritten (Holographic) Wills do not require witnessing if the Will and the signature are made in your own handwriting.
Does New Jersey Require a Notarized Will?
New Jersey, like many states, does not require you to get your Will notarized in order for it to be legally valid.
If you wish to make your Will self-proving, however, then you do have the option of getting it Notarized. Self-proving means that the probate court can accept the Will without having to obtain testimony from your witnesses. This can help speed up the probate process. To make the Will self-proving, you and your witnesses will sign a Self-Proving Affidavit in the presence of a notary public. The document states your identities and verifies the signing of the Will. This can either be done at the time of the signing of the Will or afterwards.
Who Can Witness a Will in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, a Will can be witnessed by any adult individual who is at least 18 years old and is also mentally competent. The Will must be witnessed by a minimum of two individuals who meet these qualifications. Discussed earlier in this guide, it is highly recommended that you select witnesses who do not have a personal stake in the Will, such as your beneficiaries. While New Jersey does allow you to select interested parties as your witnesses, it is not recommended as it can lead to potential conflicts, claims, and other types of legal challenges regarding the validity of the Will down the road. As the person creating the Will, the onus is on you to ensure that your Will is valid and to minimize the risk of its validity being challenged in probate.
How to Create New Jersey Last Will and Testament Online
Until New Jersey passes the Electronic Wills Act that was introduced last year, you cannot yet execute a Will digitally. However, you can still create your Will online, so long as you comply with the state’s current legal requirements. Once electronic Wills are legally valid, the process will be much more seamless.
Here is an overview of how to create your New Jersey Will online today:
1. Choose a Reputable Platform: Not all online Will creators are equal. You will find a number of online services that offer Will creation products, ranging from templates to guided prompts. You want to make sure to choose a reputable platform that is known to properly comply with the laws of all 50 states and provides a high level of data security and privacy. Trust & Will ensures that your estate plan is legally compliant in the state(s) that you specify and offers bank-level security encryption.
2. Draft up your Will: Follow your chosen platform’s prompts or templates to draft up your Will. This will include your personal information and a listing of your assets and your debts. Also be sure to name your Executor, as well as Guardian(s) if applicable.
3. Designate your Beneficiaries: An important step in the drafting of your Will is designating your Beneficiaries and outline the distribution of your assets. Be sure to include the correct contact information for your Executor and beneficiaries.
4. Review and Revise: Once you have finished drafting up your Will, be sure to review your document and make any revisions as necessary. You’ll want to watch out for accuracy and completeness.
5. Print out the Will: Per current New Jersey law, a Will must be in physical form in order for it to be valid. That means that while you may have created your Will online, you must still print it out on paper. However, this is still a convenient alternative to writing out and editing your Will in handwriting and allows you to take advantage of convenient tools such as Trust & Will’s estate planning solutions.
6. Sign and Witness the Will: Once you have your Will in your hands and are satisfied with its accuracy and completeness, it’s time to sign it. Gather your witnesses and sign your Will. Your witnesses will also sign the Will to attest to your identity, intent, and competency.
7. Notarize the Will (Optional): If you would like for your Will to be self-proving, you have the option of getting it Notarized. It is not required in the Garden State, but recommended to help speed up the probate process.
8. Upload the Will to the Platform: Last but not least, you may want to scan your finalized Will and upload it into your platform of choice. For instance, Trust & Will offers members a digital vault with bank-level encryption. While you will need to find a safe storage place for your physical Will, it is convenient and practical to review and share your document online.
Here is an overview of how to create your online Will in New Jersey once electronic Wills are legalized:
1. Review and Revise your Will: Review your currently existing Will. If you created your original Will with Trust & Will, you’ll be able to revise it using our platform which is a convenient alternative to starting over from scratch.
2. E-Sign the Will with Witnesses: Next, you will now be able to use the platform’s features of digitally executing the Will. This includes providing digital or electronic signatures, as well as the option of utilizing videoconferencing technology for your witnesses.
3. Use a Remote Notary: Trust & Will has partnered with Notarize, a trusted online notary service. If you choose to notarize your Will, you can do so remotely without having to visit a notary physically.
4. Save and Store your Digital Will: Last but not least, the great part of a fully digital Will is that you don’t ever have to print it! Simply store your complete and executed Will in a safe storage space, such as a digital vault or other type of secure cloud storage. Trust & Will offers its members a digital vault that is protected with bank-level encryption.
Create Your Online Will in New Jersey Today
The Garden State introduced the Uniform Law Commission’s Electronic Wills Act last year, meaning that the bill to legally recognize digital Wills may be passed soon. Until then, however, you can still take advantage of the convenience of creating your Will online. The only caveat is that you’ll have to print it out and have it signed and witnessed on paper. Once the E-Wills Act is passed, then you’ll be able to execute your Will digitally.
Creating your online Will in New Jersey is simple! All you have to do is select a trusted platform such as Trust & Will, who will guide you through the rest of the steps. Our platform makes it as easy and convenient as possible to create your online Will, minus the confusion and headaches. Even better, it’s at a fraction of the cost. Click here to start your online Will today.
Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.