Probate in New Jersey
After a loved one passes away, the first step in the estate administration process is probate. Understanding the New Jersey probate process and having an experienced New Jersey probate attorney to guide you through it is important to ensure that the decedent’s assets are maximized for the beneficiaries and can ease your worries.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process in which a person’s estate is administered after her death. If there is a will, the will needs to be submitted to to the surrogate of the county in which the decedent resided at the time of her death. If the will was properly executed and witnessed, with a self-proving affidavit, the surrogate will admit the will to probate and issue letters testamentary appointing the executor or executrix in accordance with the decedent’s wishes, will allow them to administer the decedent’s estate and distribute the estate’s assets. If there is no will, the surrogate will appoint someone to administer the estate as provided for by New Jersey estate law. However, in that case the assets will be distributed in accordance with New Jersey intestacy laws rather than the decedent’s wishes (intestacy means dying without a will). Our New Jersey probate attorneys will help you through every step of the probate process.
Is Having a Will Required?
Having a last will and testament is therefore a vitally important part of the New Jersey probate process. Estate planning embodied in a will allows a person to take control of how their assets will be distributed after their death. However, there is no legal requirement that a person must have a will. A person’s estate can be administered without a will, although their assets will be distributed according to New Jersey probate law governing intestacy, rather than how she wished their assets to be distributed upon their death. Likewise, without a will the court will determine who will act as the administrator of the estate rather than appointing who the decedent preferred. Therefore, it is best to meet with our New Jersey our estate planning attorneys to ensure that your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes and so you can decide who will take care of administering your assets before any health emergency arises.
Proving the Will
Under New Jersey inheritance law, proving the will is the first step in the probate process. The person wishing to prove the last will and testament will make an appointment with the county surrogate. She will bring the will and present it to the surrogate. The surrogate’s role is to verify the authenticity of the will. Other people have the right to question its validity. This could mean it wasn’t signed or witnessed properly, that it bears indications of being a forgery, that it wasn’t the last will, that there are competing wills, or that the decedent wasn’t of sound mind when they made the will. At any time prior to the probate of the will, a caveat can be filed with the Surrogate which will prohibit the will from being probated. If a caveat is filed before the will is submitted to probate, the proponent of the will must file an order to show cause in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey to request an order admitting the will to probate. However, if it a caveat is not filed and the surrogate accepts the will, the surrogate will admit the will to probate and appoint an executor or executrix pursuant to the will’s terms.
Our New Jersey probate attorneys will meet with you and prepare you for meeting with the surrogate and accompany you to the meeting. We will help you gather and prepare everything you need before the meeting with the surrogate. If there is a will contest, our litigators will represent you.
After the Executor is Appointed
Once the will has been admitted to probate and letters testamentary issued, notices must be sent to the people named in the will and heirs (close relatives defined by New Jersey probate and estate law)the executor can then start the estate administration process of determining the decedent’s assets, preparing and filing NJ Inheritance tax returns and federal estate tax returns (if they are required), paying the estate’s debts and administration expenses, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. Our New Jersey estate administration attorneys will guide and assist you through every step of this process, and can handle this process to relieve you of this burden.
How Our Probate Attorneys Can Help
Our New Jersey probate attorneys have great experience working in the specialized area of New Jersey probate law and procedure. We help loved ones navigate the probate process of getting the will accepted by the surrogate and an executor appointed, and we can accompany you to meet with the surrogate so you don’t have to face this challenge on your own. Our estate attorneys help executors marshal the decedent’s assets, pay off creditors, distribute assets as required by the will and New Jersey estate law, account for the decedent’s funds and other assets and how they were distributed, establish and administer trusts, prepare and file tax returns, and close out the estate. We counsel executors on their obligations, and the nuts and bolts of how to accomplish this project.
Our New Jersey probate lawyers can assist you through the complicated and draining process of going through probate and administering an estate. Call us at (973) 890-0004 or fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a consultation. We can help.