The Most Common Types of Wills and How to Decide What Is Right for You

types of wills

If you are thinking about how to provide for your loved ones after you pass away, creating a Will likely comes to mind. But with all the options out there, how do you decide what type of Will is right for your situation?

After helping New Jersey families plan their estates for decades, The Simone Law Firm has seen the range of ways that a thoughtfully crafted Will can make a difference.

In this article, we walk through the key categories of Wills, when simple or more advanced estate planning may make sense for you, and how to have the peace of mind that you have made reliable arrangements for those you care most about.

The Main Types of Wills and Key Differences

When creating an estate plan, one of the most important decisions is what type of last Will and testament suits your needs. In New Jersey, Wills typically fall into three major categories: simple Wills, complex Wills, and specialty Wills.

Simple Wills – Flexible and Cost-Effective

Simple Wills, also sometimes called basic or ordinary Wills, are the most common variety. They cover the core components required to distribute your assets, including:

  • Naming an estate executor to oversee the execution of your Will
  • Naming the beneficiaries who Will inherit your assets
  • Specifying exactly what real estate, financial accounts, personal property, and other belongings each recipient will receive
  • Outlining any funeral and burial instructions to guide your loved ones

The benefit of simple Wills lies in their flexibility. Estate planning lawyers often recommend simple Wills when estate owners have no complex assets like business interests or creative works that may require special legal provisions. They also suit families with harmonious relationships who are unlikely to contest or dispute any distributions that are made.

Complex Wills – Planning for Specialized Situations

For larger or more intricate estates, complex Wills can allow you to craft more customized provisions that are not easily addressed in standard documents. These different types of Wills include living Wills and testamentary trusts. Common enhancements include:

  • Crafting testamentary trusts to control how and when beneficiaries can access their inheritance after your death
  • Setting custom conditions surrounding if or how certain beneficiaries inherit each asset
  • Developing plans to minimize estate taxes, particularly if you have assets across state or country lines
  • Addressing complex assets like intellectual property rights that often require additional legal guidance

In New Jersey, estate planning counsel can craft complex estate plans for:

  • Families with minor children or beneficiaries who are unable to manage their own finances
  • Those with real estate in multiple states, such as a condo along the Jersey Shore or vacation home in the Poconos or Florida.
  • Owners of sizable business assets or intellectual property

The goal of these provisions, which are typically not found in a simple Will is both to protect beneficiaries from unnecessary tax burdens as well as to guide customized transfers of wealth according to an estate owner’s values and priorities.

Less Common Will Types

While most will opt for a standard or complex Will, New Jersey also recognizes some less prevalent types of Wills in certain situations:

Holographic Wills

Also known as handwritten Wills, these documents are written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting and signed at the end as valid without needing witnesses. Holographic Wills can provide convenience and privacy but often face court challenges that may require expert help in defending.

Pour-Over Will

Typically used alongside living trusts, pour-over Wills serve as safety nets aimed at catching any assets that are not already handled via the trust. They represent a convenient fallback plan but contribute little value apart from accompanying an already crafted, integrated estate plan that distributes property through trusts.

Oral Wills

As the name suggests, oral Wills are spoken rather than written wishes. These Wills are usually only upheld when distributing personal effects like jewelry or furniture that hold little in value.

Oral Wills are often used to supplement a traditional Will rather than as a stand-alone option. Oral wills typically do not hold up in New Jersey probate court.

The risks for validity, fraud, and other issues make these non-traditional routes the exception. Simple or complex Wills prepared by licensed attorneys prove far more reliable for sound estate planning in New Jersey.

Deciding What Approach Works for Your Situation

With these basics covered, how do you thoughtfully assess your family’s unique needs and priorities to decide what type of Will fits best?

Here are key questions to explore:

  • What is the size and type of assets I have to distribute? Details like real estate holdings, business investments, digital assets, and beneficiary ages all impact planning needs.
  • Are there complex dynamics like blended family relationships to thoughtfully navigate? Customizing inheritance conditions can prevent unnecessary family tension.
  • Would estate taxes apply to my assets’ value? Specialist strategies like A/B trusts may minimize tax implications.
  • What level of control is prudent for my beneficiaries’ long-term financial health? Trust structures provide options to distribute inheritances responsibly.

Our estate planning lawyers can help you decide which fits your situation best.

Ready to Create Your Thoughtfully Crafted Will?

While online templates offer a starting point, sound estate planning considers how the choices you make today will affect your family’s finances and relationships for decades to come.

With decades of advising New Jersey families, our attorneys at The Simone Law Firm are ready to create your will. We provide legal experience tailored for your family’s peace of mind.

Contact us today for a consultation.

Author Bio

michael s. simone, esq.

Michael Simone is the Founder and Managing Partner of the Simone Law Firm, an estate planning law firm in Cinnaminson, NJ. With more than 20 years of experience in criminal defense, he has represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, probate, real estate, and business law.

Michael received his Juris Doctor from the Rutgers University School of Law and is a member of the New Jersey Bar Association.

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