Any assets held by the deceased party alone that do not already have a named beneficiary must go through probate court in New Jersey. In general, the probate process in New Jersey is cheaper and easier than in many other states, even for high asset estates.
The purpose of the probate process is to give the executor of the will, administrator of the estate plan, or another party the authority to access assets, pay debts, and distribute the remaining assets to the heirs.
Assets that Do Not Require Probate
Almost all assets require probate. The only time an asset does not have to go through probate court is when it meets very particular criteria which include:
- The deceased owned the asset jointly with someone else as is often the case with a house or bank account
- The deceased designated a beneficiary outside of a will or estate plan, usually a retirement account or life insurance policy
- Assets held in a trust
These assets are “nonprobate assets.” This means they do not have to go through probate court and can go to their new owner without any special legal action. In some cases, such as when the surviving spouse is entitled to all assets and those assets do not exceed $20,000, there may be no reason to enter any assets from the estate into probate.
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Understanding the Probate Process in New Jersey
When you enter assets into probate in New Jersey, you begin the process by visiting the county Surrogate’s Court. Many people are intimidated by this because it is “court,” but in most cases, this is an informal process that occurs in the office of a county official (the Surrogate).
The Surrogate will review the will or other estate documents, ensure they have the right signatures and/or notary stamps, and complete paperwork to give you the authority to manage the final affairs of the deceased. This paperwork will provide you with the authorization — and the obligation — to take care of:
- Identifying and collecting all assets held by the deceased; and
- Calculating the value of the assets, including professional appraisal if needed; and
- Identifying and paying all debts and taxes; and
- Distributing any remaining assets according to the will, estate plan, or state law
While this process is often straightforward, it may require you to enlist the help of several professionals, from tax experts to appraisers to accountants. You may also need to take care of other financial tasks called for by the deceased’s will such as funding trusts or making charitable donations. This can be a complex process, especially while you face the emotions of recently losing a loved one.
An Estate Administration Lawyer Can Help You Manage the NJ Probate Process
While entering assets into probate is a relatively straightforward process in New Jersey, administering an estate can be complex and overwhelming. At Bratton Estate and Elder Care Attorneys, we can step in and help you manage this process. We can enter the will into probate for you, including:
- Going through the probate process
- Identifying all assets and property
- Appraising and valuing all assets
- Paying debts and calculating taxes
- Handling other financial transactions stipulated in the will
- Distributing the remaining assets as outlined in the will
Our team of estate planning attorneys can also help you plan, so your loved ones do not have to worry about the estate administration process after your death. We can help you build a plan that works for you and your family, even if you have a high asset estate or an unusual financial situation.
We can also help you update an older will or create a trust or other planning tool that works for your family. Reach out to us today to talk about your specific needs.
Talk to a New Jersey Estate Administration Lawyer About Your Loved One’s Estate
The team from, Bratton Estate and Elder Care Attorneys, is standing by to take your call. We can help you understand your duties as an estate administrator or executor of a will in New Jersey. We can explain the steps you need to take or handle the entire process for you.
Call us today at 856-857-6007 to get started by discussing your needs with one of our attorneys. We always get to know our clients and their priorities and preferences before we take any legal action on their behalf.