You have a few options to avoid probate court in New Jersey. The Bratton Law team can explain the pros and cons of the legal strategies to avoid probate, and help you understand when and why you might want to consider them.
In general, New Jersey’s probate process for most estates is relatively simple and affordable. The state only requires you to probate a will if there are probate assets included. A probate asset is one that does not already have a beneficiary designation through other means. In some very simple estates, you can avoid probate simply by designating a beneficiary on your bank account and life insurance.
When New Jersey Law Does Not Require Probate
The most common way people avoid entering a will into probate is when the first spouse dies, and all assets are jointly owned. Even if the spouse who passed away had their own bank account, their will does not require a probate if they named the surviving spouse or another person as the beneficiary of that account.
Of course, this situation does not apply to everyone. However, there are other ways you can avoid having your family have to enter your will into probate. These include:
- Putting all assets in a revocable living trust;
- Owning any real estate as joint tenants and having a right of survivorship;
- Designating a beneficiary for all retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and bank accounts
“Small Estate” Summary Probate Process
Some estates that require probate qualify for a “small estate” summary probate process. This process, which does not require court supervision, is relatively simple and is not something to worry about if you must go through it.
Using Living Trusts to Avoid Probate
Living trusts are often the go-to option to avoid probate court, especially in states where there are major benefits to avoiding entering a will into probate. New Jersey law allows you to put almost any asset in a living trust.
We can help you design a living trust that meets your individual needs. As a part of this process, you will name a grantor, a trustee, and the beneficiary of the trust. Then, you will name a successor trustee and successor beneficiaries. When we create the living trust, you will be the grantor who funds the trust, the trustee who manages the trust, and a beneficiary who can receive payouts from the trust.
The successor trustee will gain control of the trust immediately following your death and can distribute assets to your surviving successor beneficiaries as you designate in the trust document. This is possible without probate because you already selected who receives benefits after your death.
Benefits of Avoiding Probate In New Jersey
In some states, avoiding probate is much more valuable than in others. Some states base the cost of probate on the value of the assets, meaning your family could end up paying out a significant portion of their inheritance just to get the will validated. Depending on how they oversee the process, it could also take months before the family members have access to the money they need.
New Jersey, however, has a relatively quick and simple probate process if you have a will. The price depends on the length of the will, not the value of the estate. It also only takes a few minutes, and even going to “probate court” usually only requires going into the Surrogate’s office.
The goal of entering a will into probate in New Jersey is to ensure the will is valid and to officially name the executor of the will. Most modern wills are self-proving, making this process even easier. They will simply check that the deceased signed the will, that two others witnessed it, and that a notary stamped it.
Of course, there are always going to be personal reasons you might want your family to avoid probate when it comes to your will. Privacy is a big factor for many people and limiting even minor hassles for your grieving family members is always in your best interest. We can explain the pros and cons of probate and help you make your decision.
Talk to a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney About Your Probate Concerns
At Bratton Law, we can help you understand the New Jersey probate laws and other applicable estate planning statutes. We will discuss your concerns and preferences with you to create the best estate plan for you. We can create a will, establish a living trust, or even employ strategies to help you protect your assets. Count on our South Jersey estate planning attorneys to help you provide for your family even after your death.
Call us today at 856-857-6007 to schedule a time to talk to us.