A Guide to the NJ Probate Process

NJ probate

The passing of a loved one brings on waves of grief, joy, sadness, and more emotions that we usually can’t even put into words. The last thing that we want to do is think about our own or a loved one’s mortality. At some point, it’s necessary to prepare for what will happen after you die; it will save everyone a load of stress and headache. Part of that preparation is writing a will and having a plan for your estate, valuables, and other assets.

Immediately after a resident of New Jersey passes away, the probate process begins. The probate process gives authority to the New Jersey probate court to distribute assets and belongings that remain. An individual is appointed by the court to take charge of the estate, itemize assets and financial accounts, pay off all remaining debt, and discern whether or not the existing will is valid. Once these tasks are checked off of the to-do list, the court will continue on by allocating inheritance to the correct heirs.

“Assets” is a general term used to refer to an individual’s possessions. The probate process does differentiate between types of property by defining them as “probate assets” and “nonprobate assets.” Property only falls into the “probate assets” category if the individual had possessions in solely their own name. Nonprobate assets, on the other hand, can typically be allotted to their new owners without probate. Common nonprobate assets can include:

·        Possessions of the deceased individual that they owned in conjunction with someone else, which are then automatically passed on to the living co-owner.

·        Assets that the deceased individual appointed to an heir outside of the will, such as a 401k or IRAs that have been named to a beneficiary.

·        Proceeds from life insurance (paid according to the terms in the contracts) or pension benefits that can be allocated to a designated beneficiary.

·        Assets that are contained in a revocable living trust.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to plan for one’s own mortality, especially if an individual dies at a young age or unexpectedly. In the situation where an individual passes without a will, the probate process takes over. Sometimes, surviving family members can utilize a simplified version of New Jersey’s probate process. Both less expensive and quicker, the streamlined version is possible if these requirements are met.

Simplified Small Estate Probate

·        The total value of all assets remaining does not surpass $20,000.

·        The surviving spouse, family member, or beneficiary is entitled to the inheritance without probate.

·        A surviving spouse or family member does not exist and the value doesn’t top $10,000.

·        With permission of the other heirs, one heir can submit an affidavit to the court in order to obtain all assets.

Regular Probate

The surrogate’s court in the county in which the deceased individual resided is responsible for carrying out the process. Ideally, the whole procedure should take less than a year. In as few as 10 days following the individual’s passing, the executor can request to be designated as the official executor of the estate. To do this, you’ll have to show a copy of the will and an authorized copy of the death certificate. If your loved one does not have a will, the court will name an administrator. According to New Jersey law, the surviving spouse or domestic partner is given the first choice of being appointed administrator.

In terms of handling estate assets, the administrator will consolidate all existing cash accounts and money that has come into the estate, such as compensations or refunds. These leftover funds are applied to any expenses for the estate.

If possible, it’s best to attempt to streamline the probate process. This saves both your time and any of the beneficiaries’ time. The cost is another point to consider, especially if loved ones are forced to resort to their own financial accounts to pay for funeral expenses. For more information on the probate process or to contact a professional to guide you, contact our office today.

NJ Wills: What is Probate?

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Most people go to great lengths to avoid even thinking about their own mortality and that of their closest loved ones. Admittedly, processing the fact that you or someone very near and dear to you will inevitably pass away can be overwhelming and sad.

Our best advice to those who are struggling with the concept of dying is to face it matter-of-factly. Being prepared for all of the details surrounding someone’s passing certainly won’t make it any easier in terms of missing them, but it will put your mind at ease regarding their estate.

What is an estate?

After someone dies, their estate consists of any and all assets (property of value) that they owned. Assets include things like real estate, vehicles, personal items, life insurance proceeds (in some cases) and money. If the deceased person owed any debts, the money in their estate will be used to pay these debts before anything can be dispersed to beneficiaries.

How do I start the process of sorting through my loved one’s estate?

If you were named as the executor of an estate that has assets, you’ll need to visit the surrogate court in the New Jersey county in which the decedent lived. This will start the NJ legal process known as probate, and it can be initiated 10 days after someone passes away.

What happens in probate?

In New Jersey, probate is necessary only if the deceased had assets in his or her name only. Official appointment of the executor will occur in probate court with the production of the will and death certificate.

If there was no will, an administrator will be assigned to the estate in probate court. As long as there are no protests of the will, surrogate court will then give full authority to either the estate executor or administrator. You can find a full list of the executor’s duties here.

Does an estate executor get paid?

In New Jersey, estate executors or administrators can be paid for their duties, which can, in certain cases, be quite time consuming. The amount they can receive is limited to 6% of any income to the estate, plus 5% of the total gross value of the estate.*

How long does it take to probate a will?

The length of time it will take for anyone’s estate to move through the probate process is dependent on how large and complicated the estate may be. On average, moderately sized estates typically make it through to the end of NJ probate within a year. More extensive and complex estates can languish in probate for up to a decade.

For more information about New Jersey probate laws call or contact our office today. In addition, take this time to make an appointment with us to draft your own estate plan.

Image credit: Bosc d’Anjou