What Happens with New Jersey Probate?

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If you have recently lost your loved one, you must work to manage their estate affairs. Notably, in most instances, this can all be done with the New Jersey Surrogate, without having to go to court. Read on to discover how the probate process works and how a seasoned probate lawyer in Monmouth County, NJ, at Margaret M. Mahon, Esq., LLC, can walk you through this.

What is probate?

To explain further, the Surrogate of the county where the decedent resided at the time of death accepts the Will for probate and authorizes the appointment of an executor or estate representative. They will also appoint the estate representative for estates without a Will. The executors/estate representatives will be responsible for any or all of the following tasks:

  • Gather and inventory the deceased’s assets.
  • Get the assets professionally appraised, if necessary.
  • Pay the deceased’s legitimate debts.
  • File the estate inheritance and estate tax returns, as well as any estate income tax return and the final personal return of the decedent.
  • Distribute the deceased’s assets as provided in the will.

With some exceptions, the court does not get involved with overseeing the probate process in New Jersey, which makes it simpler and less expensive than in other states. However, individuals may petition the court in certain circumstances, such as if there is a problem with the Will or an original will cannot be found and a copy is being admitted for probate. Additionally, interested individuals may petition to the court if an executor is being substituted or there is a challenge of any kind to the will, administration of the estate, or a claim for the elective marital share.

How does the probate process work for smaller estates without a will?

The state of New Jersey offers a simplified process for smaller estates without a will. This involves the transfer of specific assets by way of an affidavit.

The conditions for being able to utilize this option are as follows:

  • You are a surviving spouse or domestic partner, and the deceased did not leave a will or did not have assets that totaled more than $50,000.
  • You are a family member, and the deceased did not have a surviving spouse or domestic partner, and they did not have a will or did not have assets that totaled more than $20,000.

How does the probate process work with a will or estates without a will that have more significant assets?

Importantly, the Will (if there is a Will) must be submitted to the Surrogate in the county in which the deceased resided. If there is no Will, the person wishing to be appointed must also seek an appointment with that county’s Surrogate. Some of the basic steps of the probate process are as follows:

  1. If the deceased appointed you as executor of his or her estate, you must submit the Will (if there is one) for probate and seek an appointment from the Surrogate. You may do so 10 days after your loved one has passed on.
  2. You must notify all next of kin and beneficiaries named in the will after the Will is accepted for probate and the executor is appointed, by way of Notice of Probate, within 60 days.
  3. You must keep records of estate assets and expenses and make these available to beneficiaries upon request at the close of the estate administration. Typically, an informal accounting is provided to the beneficiaries, which they would approve.
  4. Creditors have nine months to come forward with claims on the probate estate. The executor has no requirement to provide them with notice. In any event, the executor will pay any legitimate debts and taxes.
  5. You must distribute estate assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will (or by the laws of intestacy if there is no will) after all estate debts and taxes are paid.
  6. Refunding Bonds & Releases must be signed and a child support judgment search completed for each beneficiary prior to the final distribution.

For more information, contact a competent New Jersey probate lawyer today.