What is a Holographic Will?

A holographic will is a personal handwritten will that has been signed by the testator (the person writing the will). While a formal will requires the addition of witness signatures, a holographic will does not. In some cases, if proven to be legitimate, the holographic will is treated the same as formal wills executed by your lawyer.

How do I ensure that a handwritten will is honored after my death?

There are several requirements that ensure that a will is honored:

  1. You must be able to prove you actually wrote and signed the will. This can be done by hand-writing experts. You can also provide and name witnesses to the writing.
  2. You must be mentally capable to make the decisions involved in the writing of a will and the disposition of your property.
  3. You must be expressing a wish to distribute your property to beneficiaries.

 What are the pitfalls involved?

Not all jurisdictions will recognize a holographic will. A will of this type can be more easily challenged by virtually anyone. If you have an existing will that was written by an attorney, a judge could be persuaded to honor the more legal document. A holographic will is generally written during times of great distress or danger.

An example of creating a holographic will under duress would be in the few minutes when you know that your plane is about to crash. You may write a note stating that your immediate family is to inherit all of your earthly possessions. A business partner, for example, would be prone to contest this, especially if you have contracts in place for how your business is to be split after a partner’s death.

Another example of a holographic will comes in the form of a video will. Generally this happens when there is no paper available. People in the armed services are usually granted the largest berth when it comes to creating video wills. People that are trapped, lost, kidnapped or imprisoned also fall into this category. There are time limits set by some jurisdictions for these types of holographic wills.

 Who should I notify of the will’s existence?

The hard truth of the matter is that you may not be able to notify anyone, especially if you’re in a life or death situation and come to the realization that you’ve never drafted a will! If that’s the case, you’ll have to hope that your handwritten or typed last wishes will somehow make it into the right hands and will also stand up in court. This is all assuming that your holographic will survives the tragic event(s) that caused you to lose your life.

The best way to go?

 We all live busy lives, filled with activities and work. Once you reach a point where you own assets to dispose of, it falls on you to make it easier for your loved ones when you do depart this earth. Therefore, there is no better alternative than to make time to sit down with your lawyer and write a formal will.

Yes, there are online wills that can be downloaded and filled out. There are packages that can be purchased from your local bookstores that will direct you how to fill out a will that should stand up to probate. Our recommendation? Don’t wait until you’re looking death in the eye to scribble out a few lines saying everything goes to my wife. Don’t take chances with your Estate; you deserve the peace of mind that comes with having your will professionally written and witnessed.


The Importance of Life Insurance in NJ Estate Planning

nj estate planning

If you have people relying on you, no doubt you have spent some time thinking about how to protect them in the event that something happens to you. In order to create a solid estate plan, life insurance should be a component of providing security for your loved ones even after you’re gone. Most life insurance policies fall into two categories: term life insurance and whole life insurance. How do you know which life insurance plan is best for you?

  • Term life insurance is only in effect for a specified period of time.
  • Whole life insurance covers you until death no matter when that is.

You’ll pay lower premiums for term life insurance than for whole life insurance. Other things to consider when selecting a life insurance policy include:

1. How much coverage do you need?

The end goal of term life insurance is to substitute the income you would have provided your family with. If you live past the coverage period of the policy, you receive nothing. Most policies cover for 10, 20, or 30 years. The premium (payment) for a term life policy is static throughout the life of the policy and is based on your age, health conditions, and lifestyle. Regarding term life insurance, the insurance company is betting that you will outlive the policy and they will not have to pay anything to your beneficiaries. Hence the lower premiums.

2. What kind of payments can you afford?

Whole life policies, on the other hand, are more complex. Because there is an absolute value and guaranteed payout for every policy, premiums are much more expensive. Insurance companies cannot gamble on whether or not they will have to pay out for your policy—they know they will have to.

3. How is your general health?

4. Do you make relatively smart lifestyle choices?

5. Do you want the option to borrow from your insurance policy?

Often, a complete health and wellness exam is required before an insurance company will issue a whole life policy. With whole life policies, part of the money you pay in premiums will go directly toward the value of the policy itself. This is your money. If you cancel the policy, you would still get some money back. While it will diminish the death payout of the policy, you can even borrow against a whole life policy.

6. What is your relationship status?

7. How much debt do you have?

If you are single, debt-free, and dependent-free, you probably don’t need life insurance at all. For most of us, this isn’t the case. Ask yourself what problems may arise if you were to die today. For instance, if you still have 20 years left on your mortgage, you might want to consider a term life insurance policy for 20 years so you know your mortgage will always be covered. On the other hand, if you have a lifelong dependent who requires constant care, setting up a whole life policy to cover their long-term care is probably the better choice.

8. How old are you?

Some people decide to invest in both a life and a term life insurance policy. When you’re younger, you may not be in the financial position (or have the need) to pay the premiums for whole life insurance. Many life insurance companies allow you to convert your policy from term to whole life as your circumstances change and as you age. Your new premiums would be based on your age when you convert. You may have to submit to a new medical exam, but by converting, you can benefit from lower premiums when you are younger while still putting money toward (what will become) a whole life policy to cover you later in life.

Estate planning, and life insurance in particular, can seem like intimidating tasks, but they don’t have to me. Veitengruber Law offers long-term planning guidance for all stages of life. We believe in utilizing personalized strategies to help our clients protect themselves and their loved ones. Schedule your free consultation to discuss all of your estate planning concerns.

NJ Estate Planning for Small Business Owners

NJ estate planning

No one wants to plan for their untimely death. It’s a terrifying prospect that your family could be suddenly left without you. However, planning for your estate is an important part of being an adult. You need to designate what happens to your possessions and who will care for your children. What most people don’t realize is that planning for your business is just as important, if not more so. With careful planning, small business owners can ensure that their business endures and will help support their families for years to come.

Succession Planning

What is your plan for your company’s future without you? Do you want to pass on your business to your family to continue to run or do you want to make it easy for them to sell it? Do you have a plan for your employees and have you ensured that their futures will be safe without you? These are just some of the questions to consider.

Your family may not want to continue in your footsteps and these are conversations you will want to have with them before you start planning. While starting and growing your business may have been your dream, it might not be theirs. Make sure that if you plan to leave your business in the family that it is not a burden for them after you’re gone.

Death and Taxes, the Two Certainties in Life

Tax law is ever-changing and it is important to modify your plan accordingly. The good news is that New Jersey’s law recently changed and no longer imparts an estate tax (also known as the death tax) on deaths occurring in 2018 and afterwards.

New Jersey does still impose an inheritance tax, but close relatives such as parents, grandparents, spouses, and children are exempt. Other relatives will be subject to the inheritance tax which can range from eleven to fourteen percent depending on the amount inherited. These relatives can include siblings and spouses of deceased children.

There is good news when it comes to the federal estate tax as well. Businesses valued at less than 11.4 million dollars are exempt from the tax. Most small businesses fall under this valuation. If your business does meet this criterion, there are several actions you can take to minimize your tax exposure. You can develop a family limited partnership or divide the estate into several trusts depending on the size of the business.

Life and Disability Insurance

These two policies are essential for ensuring that your family and business continue to thrive without you. First you want to set up policies that will benefit your family. Then you will need policies that benefit your business. The payouts from the policies will enable the business to continue to operate during the transition between owners, enable payments to estate taxes, and/or buyout from other owners and partners in the business. Term life policies are expensive but the alternative is leaving your family and business without a safety net.

Keep Updating Your Plan

Approximately thirty percent of small business owners have no estate plan. Among those who do have a plan, the majority are over five years old. If your business is growing, your estate plan may no longer match your needs and it most certainly is not taking advantage of the ever-changing tax code. Once established, you should review and update your estate plan every three to five years. This is why it is so important to enlist the help of an experienced estate planning team like Veitengruber Law. We can help you create your last will and testament and other documents pertaining to end of life like power of attorney, living will, succession plan, and estate plan. With careful planning, you can ensure the success of your business and the security of your family in the future.

Choosing the Right NJ Estate Planning Attorney

NJ estate planning attorney

When it comes to estate planning, it can be confusing to know where to begin. Despite the many benefits of working with an estate planning attorney, people taking the first steps to plan for the future can be hesitant to discuss their assets and personal details with a professional. The best NJ estate planning attorneys provide in-depth knowledge of all the tools you will need to secure your future, but it can be hard to know where to start looking for the qualified professional that fits your specific needs. Here is how you can make sure you’re getting the best legal advice for your personalized estate plan.


  1. Talk to friends and family.

One of the best sources for finding a quality estate planning attorney is to ask friends and family who they have used in the past. If you know someone who has recently created an estate plan, ask them if they worked with an estate planning attorney. Getting a recommendation from a trusted friend will typically mean more than any online review. The people close to you will also be able to tell you about their experiences so you know what to expect.


  1. Don’t be afraid to look outside your area.

While you certainly want to work with a lawyer that is licensed to practice in your state, don’t just settle for the attorney that is the closest to you. It is better to find an attorney that fits your needs first and look at geography second. Many attorneys will be willing to work with you if travel is difficult for you, or may have a satellite office in your area. The right attorney will make the effort to meet your needs.


  1. Consult with other professionals.

If you work with an accountant, a financial advisor, or another kind of attorney, ask if they could suggest any estate planning attorneys. These professionals tend to work together for clients and therefore know the best of the best in each specialty area. It’s even possible these trusted professionals worked personally with an attorney on their own estate plan. They will have insight into a potential estate planning attorney’s work ethic, business practices, and expertise.


  1. Watch out for internet directories.

While google searches have become the internet’s version of the yellow pages, be wary of relying too much on internet directories. Most of these directories are compiled of attorneys and law offices that have paid a large fee for a good review as a “specialist.” Only trust lists that are verified by a third party. These directories are not paid to list an attorney and they use specific criteria to rank qualified professionals. One great website to search for lawyers is the verification site www.avvo.com.


  1. Bar Association referrals.

State and local Bar Associations offer lawyer referral services to the public. The NJ Bar Association sorts their referral lists by specialty so you can look specifically for an estate planning attorney. Keep in mind that the Bar Association is not assessing attorneys based on the quality of their work and that attorneys pay a fee to be featured in these lists. Just because an attorney is listed on this website, it doesn’t mean they will be a good match for your legal needs. However, if you are struggling to find an attorney, this may be a good jumping off point.


  1. Look for signs of accountability.

A good estate planning attorney will have a malpractice insurance policy. Even the best attorneys make mistakes. An attorney that acknowledges this fact and has taken the necessary precautions shows trustworthy judgment and professionalism. You can also see if the attorney is part of any professional organizations. This can indicate that they are interested in keeping up with the latest estate planning developments. Taking the time to be involved in these organizations means an attorney is constantly sharpening their knowledge and networking with other professionals. Keeping up to date on recent laws and planning techniques will benefit you and your family.


At Veitengruber Law, our legal team is experienced in providing estate planning and asset protection services that are customized to fit your specific needs and future goals. We know how intimidating it can be to consult with an attorney. We will take the time to sit down with you to discuss your concerns and make sure you understand all of your legal options. We want you to be able to make informed decisions about your future. Call us today at 732-852-7295 for your free, no-obligation consultation. We work with clients throughout New Jersey and can discuss your options over the phone if travel is difficult. We also have a satellite office in Bordentown, NJ.


Don’t wait to make a plan to secure your future. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney today.

Should I Make an Online Will or Hire a NJ Estate Planning Attorney?

nj estate planning attorney

Today, you can do pretty much anything online. From shopping to taking an online class to becoming ordained, there is typically a way to use the internet to accomplish your goals. There are even online tools to help you create a will. When it comes to estate planning, a will can help you prepare for end of life decisions and prevent disputes after you’re gone. A quick Google search will provide dozens of websites designed to help you create a will in less than an hour. It is important, however, to know all of your options. Before you create your will online, take the time to make sure this is the best choice for your specific needs.

There are three main ways to create a will. The first option is to prepare the will yourself. While this option is free, it requires a lot of detailed planning and instructions. You need to think of every single asset you possess and the logistics of passing on those assets. If you accidentally leave something out of the will, your loved ones could face legal fees and tax consequences to try and fix the mistake.

The second option is to use a do-it-yourself online service. These (paid) online services will give you access to software that provides suggestions and step-by-step directions as you create your will. While these services typically charge less than an estate planning attorney, they will not provide you with any legal advice.

The final option is to seek the help of an experienced attorney to create a will. While this is the most expensive and maybe even the least convenient of the three options, it is undoubtedly the one that will lead to a binding, well-drafted will. An experienced attorney will know exactly how to protect your assets to the full extent of the law. The added human touch of working with an attorney will assure you get a will personalized to your individual needs.

How do you know which option is the best for you?

First, it is important to check the laws where you live. In New Jersey, the will must be signed by at least two witnesses who are required to watch you sign the will. The witnesses do not need to read the will, but they must be people who don’t stand to benefit from the will. If you are creating a self-proven will, you and your witnesses must sign a sworn statement before a Notary Public. NJ law does not require that you file your will with a government agency. Instead, you should keep it in a safe place where your executor can access it when needed.

The next step is to take an honest look at your estate and what your needs are. Take into account your assets, your family situation, and the complexity of the will you will need. If you have little property and small investments, doing a will on your own or through an online service will probably work out fine. But the more complex your situation, the more likely it will be that you will need the advice of an attorney when drafting your will. An experienced attorney will be able to provide expert advice on different estate planning tools that may fit your circumstances better than a simple will.

For most people what it really comes down to is cost. Obviously, the cost of creating a handwritten or typed-out will could be nothing or very low. For online services, the cost can vary from $10 to $600+ depending on what documents you need and the service you use. The cost of hiring an attorney or estate planner will vary, but it does tend to be the most expensive option at face value. But it is important to note that these professionals know how to get it right the first time and can offer invaluable legal advice that can save you financially later down the line. Estate planning lawyers are knowledgeable about tax considerations, alternative estate planning tools, legal requirements, and dealing with a variety of complex situations. The more moving parts involved in a will, the more money you can save in the long run by hiring an experienced NJ estate planning attorney.

When it comes to your assets and your legacy, you don’t want to have to second guess your choices. At Veitengruber Law, we offer personalized estate planning strategies. We can explain the full breadth of your legal options in plain language and help you make informed decisions about your assets. We will work with you to utilize the legal options that are best for your goals. Contact us today at 732-852-7295 for your free, no-obligation consultation.