How Do You Make a Valid Will In New Jersey?

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To make a valid will in New Jersey, the testator (the person making the will) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.  NJ Stat § 3B:3-1.  To be valid under New Jersey law the will must be:

  1. In writing;
  2. Signed by the testator;
  3. Witnessed by at least two witnesses.

 

A Testator Must Be 18 Or Over And Of Sound Mind

In addition to being at least 18 years old, a testator must be of sound mind in order to create a valid will under New Jersey law.

A testator is considered to be of sound mind if the testator can:

  1. Comprehend the property he is about to dispose of;
  2. Know the natural objects of his bounty;
  3. Know what the will does and the purpose of executing the will.

 

Signature Requirement

A New Jersey will must also be signed in order to be valid.  Either the testator can sign, or someone else can sign the testator’s name in the testator’s conscious presence and at the testator’s direction. NJ Stat § 3B:3-2(2).

Witness Requirement

In order to be valid, a New Jersey will must also be witnessed by two witnesses. Each witness must sign the will within a reasonable time after each witnessed either the signing of the will or testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will. NJ Stat § 3B:3-2(3).

Any individual generally competent to be a witness may act as a witness to a will and to testify concerning execution thereof.  NJ Stat § 3B:3-7.

Does a Will Have To Be Notarized To Be Valid In New Jersey?

No, there is no requirement that a will has to be notarized in New Jersey in order to be valid.

However, New Jersey law does create the ability to make your will self-proving, which requires the use of a notary.  Making a will self-proving makes it a simpler task to admit the will to probate, because you do not need testimony from the witnesses after the testator’s death.

A Will Can Be Self-Proved At the Time Of Execution

A New Jersey will can be made self-proved at the time of execution by including specific acknowledgment language set forth in NJ Stat § 3B:3-4 and executing the acknowledgement in front of a notary.  The form of the self-proving language is:

I, ………., the testator, sign my name to this instrument this …. day of ……., 20…, and being duly sworn, do hereby declare to the undersigned authority that I sign and execute this instrument as my last will and that I sign it willingly (or willingly direct another to sign for me), that I execute it as my free and voluntary act for the purposes therein expressed, and that I am 18 years of age or older, of sound mind, and under no constraint or undue influence.

…………………………………..

Testator

We,…………., the witnesses, sign our names to this instrument, and, being duly sworn, do hereby declare to the undersigned authority that the testator signs and executes this instrument as the testator’s last will and that the testator signs it willingly (or willingly directs another to sign for him), and that each of us, in the presence and hearing of the testator, hereby signs this will as witness to the testator’s signing, and that to the best of our knowledge the testator is 18 years of age or older, of sound mind, and under no constraint or undue influence.

………………………………….

Witness

………………………………….

Witness

This exact language need not be used, but the language used must be substantially similar.

A New Jersey Will Can Be Made Self-Proved After Execution

At any time after the execution of a New Jersey will, the will can be made self-proved by the acknowledgement thereof by the testator and the affidavits of the witnesses, each made before a notary.  NJ Stat § 3B:3-5 contains the form for the affidavits.

It is a good idea to consult a New Jersey probate lawyer to help you prepare a will that is valid under New Jersey law.

General Probate Issues