Probate is the process family members of a deceased person must follow to authenticate a will. New Jersey’s probate process is relatively streamlined when compared to many other states. The goal of this process is to ensure the will is valid and the executor can carry out the last wishes of the deceased. Probate reduces the risk of fraud.
Probate is one of the most common topics our clients ask about, and we can help you understand the process and when it is necessary. Call us today to learn more or have us guide you through the estate administration process.
The New Jersey Probate Process
The New Jersey probate process can begin 10 days after the person’s death. The cost of probating a will in the state of New Jersey is around $100-$150, although it depends on the length of the document. This contrasts with many states that charge based on the value of the estate. In all, it takes less than an hour in the Surrogate’s Court to validate most wills. This comes as a surprise to many people, who expect probate to be a drawn-out process.
Entering a will into probate requires a visit to the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the deceased lived. A Surrogate is an elected official who typically works in the local county courthouse or a nearby county office building. In most cases, there is no courtroom for Surrogate’s Court. Instead, you will meet with the Surrogate or with a clerk who has the authority to enter wills into probate.
Wills prepared by a lawyer or other professionals are typically self-proving. This means there were several witnesses and a notary who witnessed the signing of the will, and no other proof is necessary to validate it. The Surrogate only needs to check for the presence of the signatures and notary stamp on these wills.
If there is not a notary stamp on your loved one’s will, you may need to take along one of the witnesses or provide a matching signature of your loved one to prove the validity of the will. We can help you figure out the best way to validate a will that is not self-proving if you are not sure how to manage this process or do not have access to a witness who signed it.
After the Surrogate validates the will, he issues documents that allow the executor named in the will to administer the estate. The executor needs these documents to gain access to financial accounts, determine the value of assets, pay the final expenses and taxes, and distribute any remaining funds. Depending on the types of assets the deceased party held, the executor may need access to bank accounts, life insurance policies, and investment accounts.
When There Is No Will
If your loved one did not leave a will, you will need to have the court appoint someone as the administrator. You may want help with this process, since it is somewhat more complicated than entering a will into probate. We can help you apply to be the personal representative, get the qualification papers in order, and administer the estate.
Give us a call as early in the process as possible to ensure you do not have to navigate this process alone, and to reduce the chance of others disputing your appointment as personal representative.
Probate Is Not Always Required
New Jersey law does not require you to enter every will into probate. For example, if the deceased party has a surviving spouse and they owned everything together, you most likely do not need to probate the will. There are also other situations that may not require you to submit the will to probate.
To learn more about your specific situation, you should talk to an estate administration attorney. We can offer advice and guidance about whether you can skip this process, as well as walk you through it if you need to probate your loved one’s will.
Contacting an Estate Administration Attorney
At BrattonLaw Group, our team of estate administration attorneys, social workers, and other knowledgeable professionals understand how difficult it can be to deal with the legal and financial issues stemming from a beloved family member’s death. We are here to offer support and guidance before, during, and after the probate process. We can oversee the administration of your loved one’s estate, and handle any issues that arise. We can also represent you in any disputes over the estate.
You can reach our New Jersey office at 856-857-6007. We are available to answer your questions about the probate process or other estate administration topics.