If you are a resident of Gloucester County, New Jersey, and have executed a valid New Jersey will, that will dictates the distribution of the property you owned at your death. The will is not limited to your property within Gloucester County, and will determine who receives your property no matter where it is located throughout the world.
Your will does have limitations. Here is a list of things that on its own your will cannot do.
- Disinherit your Spouse: While you are in general free to leave your assets to whomever you wish at your death, without your spouse’s permission New Jersey law prevents you from disinheriting your spouse. You could have a prenuptial agreement where your spouse has surrendered his or her right of election, but otherwise your spouse is free to elect this right even if your will states that your spouse should get nothing.
- Change Beneficiary Designations: Your will has no effect over assets for which you have executed beneficiary designations. For example, if your Gloucester County will states that all your assets pass to your son, but your life insurance policy beneficiary designation states that the life insurance passes to your daughter, the will has no effect over the life insurance. This contract formed with the life insurance company trumps the will.
- Change Joint ownership: Joint ownership of real estate or various accounts is another example of a will limitation. For example, if your will says that all of your Gloucester County real estate passes to your son at your death, but that real property is owned jointly with a right of survivorship with your brother, then at your death your brother can claim the property and your son will get nothing. The ownership you created with your brother trumps the will.
As you can see, simply having a will, without having an estate plan that takes into consideration all of your assets and their ownership, can mean your true intentions are not respected. It can also end up creating conflict and litigation between your heirs. Take the time to work with an estate-planning attorney who is familiar with the rules that effect Gloucester County wills. You worked hard for your assets, make sure they end up in the hands of the right people!
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