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Wills & Probate

Throughout our lives we buy and collect property, save money, and often incur debt. All of these items become part of our estate. When we pass away, we use a will to provide instructions for our families on how we want our estate to be distributed after our death. New Jersey wills and probate laws deal with the distribution and administration of property in the estate of an individual who dies a resident of New Jersey.


Probate and Estate Planning Terms

This glossary of probate and estate planning terms is designed to help navigate the legal language used in estate planning and probate law.


Will law

Drawing up a will is an important step in the estate planning process. The will is a legal document that directs how you want your property distributed upon your death. In order to be a valid will, New Jersey law provides that the document must be properly signed and witnessed by two people and you must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old when it is signed. The will should also be executed in the presence of a Notary Public in order to simplify the probate process.

Sometimes your wishes, as outlined in your will, are not the hopes and wishes of your family members. Occasionally, families contest the validity of wills or the validity of changes to wills. In order to avoid the possibility of an invalid or contested will, an estate planning attorney can prepare the document for you.


A New Jersey Will usually includes the following:

  • Appointment of an executor to carry out your wishes and avoid bonding requirements
  • Clear direction of how you want your assets distributed
  • Appointment of a guardian for minor or incompetent children
  • Possible Trusts for estate tax planning and to protect beneficiaries

A will can be revoked at any time before your death by destroying it or by creating a new will that replaces the old one. Wills executed in the state of New Jersey can be changed by either creating an entirely new will or by adding the changes to the existing will by codicil.


The Law of Probate

Probate or estate administration laws dictate the process of distributing your assets after you die.  These laws deal with the following:

  • Asset collection, valuation, liquidation and distribution
  • Beneficiary and creditor notification
  • Debt, obligation and valid claim payments
  • Tax return preparation and filing
  • Inventory preparation
  • Court and legal cost payments

Contact the Firm

If you reside in central New Jersey and need the assistance of a Princeton will or probate lawyer to create a will or administer an estate, contact Mason, Griffin & Pierson, P.C. for consultation. The firm’s probate attorneys have over five decades of experience in drafting wills, estate planning, probate, and estate administration.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Autumn Culinaire

    The firm is pleased to be a sponsor at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mercer October 17 fundraiser event at Cobblestone Creek Country Club in Lawrence, New Jersey. The event features dishes from several of the area's finest restaurants, tastings of wine and beer and live music. The evening will honor individuals who volunteer time and commitment making BBBS Mercer a success. For more information go to www.bbbsmercer.org

  • Communities of Light Launch October 22

    Womanspace's Annual Communities of Light Event on December 2nd is a public awareness project and fundraising campaign to benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The launch event is free and open to the public. It includes a press conference and reception and will take place at 5:30 PM on October 22 at Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road in Lawrenceville. Edwin Schmierer, Director with Mason, Griffin & Pierson is a member of the Board of Directors of Womanspace and the firm is a sponsor of the event. The event will honor the Police Chiefs and coordinators of Mercer County. More information at www.womanspace.org.

  • Philly Pops Concert October 5

    Mason, Griffin & Pierson is pleased to be a sponsor at the Philly Pops concert to benefit The Foundation of Morris Hall/St. Lawrence, Inc. The Foundation provides funding for skilled nursing, out patient health care, and rehabilitation for residents at Morris Hall and St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center. The concert will be at the Patriots Theater, Trenton War Memorial. For information and tickets go to www.morrishall.org/events.php

  • Girls on the Run

    The firm is a sponsor for the November 24 Girls on the Run Central New Jersey 5K in downtown Somerville, New Jersey. Girls on the Run is a program for girls in grades 3 through 8 which teaches girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Associate Attorney Nicole Sciotto is member of the Advisory Board of Girls on the Run, Central New Jersey Chapter. For more information, including donations and race registration, please visit www.gotrcnj.org.

  • West Windsor Mayor's Ball

    The firm is a sponsor for the November 2 West Windsor Mayor's Ball. The event takes place at the Boathouse on Mercer Lake in West Windsor and benefits the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company. For more information go to www.westwindsornj.org/WW-givesback/index.html.

  • Cecil on New Jersey Municipal League Conference Panels

    Trishka Waterbury Cecil, past President of the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys (NJILGA), is a presenter at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City. Mandatory Certification Class For New Board Members, sponsored by New Jersey Planning Officials is on November 19. Muincipal Law Update 2019, sponsored by New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, and OPMA/Civility/Administration of Public Meetings, sponsored by New Jersey State League of Municipalities are on November 21. For more information, go to www.njpo.org, www.njilga.org or www.njlm.org.