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Probate and Estate Administration

Obtain The Legal Help You Need For A Smooth Estate Settlement

When done right, estate planning should provide peace of mind that you will age with dignity and respect for your wishes. Growing old does not have to be a frightening experience—but putting a proper estate plan in place is vital. 

Probate is the process of settling and distributing a deceased person’s estate under court supervision. It validates the will, if any, and ensures debts are paid and assets are distributed according to the law. Estate administration manages and distributes assets even if there is no will.

Quick Summary:

  • Probate and Estate Administration Process: Probate in New Jersey validates a deceased individual’s Last Will and Testament, handling their assets and debts. 
  • What Qualifies as an Estate? An estate includes all possessions owned by a deceased person, which are distributed according to a will or trust. In the absence of a will or trust, New Jersey’s intestate succession law applies
  • Essential Pieces of an Estate Plan: Wills, trusts, living wills, & powers of attorney.
  • Steps in Typical NJ Probate: Appointment of executor/administrator, issuance of letters testamentary/administration, notice to heirs/beneficiaries, handling estate assets, dealing with debts/taxes, distributing property/closing estate; typically takes about a year.
  • Why an Attorney? Navigate challenges, ensure smooth proceedings, protect interests, and find peace of mind.

Dealing with probate and estate administration in Moorestown, New Jersey, can be a real headache. There are confusing laws and steps to follow, especially if things get personal. Having a Moorestown, NJ probate and estate administration attorney who knows this stuff inside and out can make life much easier. They’ll be your partner in crime, making sure everything gets done smoothly, legally, and without you losing your mind.

What is the Probate and Estate Administration Process in New Jersey?

Probate, a court-supervised process, validates a deceased person’s Last Will. It involves gathering their assets, settling debts, and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries. This process is required when someone passes away with a valid Will and individually owned assets. Assets in trusts or with beneficiary designations bypass probate in New Jersey. Despite its criticism, probate isn’t universally negative.

When someone dies with a Will, the court appoints an executor to oversee probate. Without a Will, New Jersey law appoints an administrator to manage the estate. The executor or administrator must follow state laws on creditors, taxes, and asset allocation.

In New Jersey, the executor submits the original Will to the Surrogate of the county where the deceased lived. If the original can’t be found but a copy exists, the executor must seek court approval to admit the copy for probate.

After probate, the executor sets up an estate account to settle debts. Property and assets are then transferred to the estate or beneficiaries. The executor obtains an estate tax ID number, as the deceased’s social security number becomes invalid. They also submit forms to the IRS and Surrogate’s Office to avoid personal liability for estate debts.

What Qualifies as an “Estate”?

In New Jersey, an estate includes all possessions owned by someone who has passed away, to be distributed as per their will or intestate succession laws. Estate administration involves key steps:

  1. Validating and executing the will.
  2. Identifying, verifying, and valuing the specified property.
  3. Distributing the property to beneficiaries as per the will’s instructions.
  4. Identifying the decedent’s creditors, settling their claims.
  5. Paying associated fees and taxes.
  6. Distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries as outlined.

The probate and estate administration processes aim to ensure a systematic and lawful transfer of assets, addressing the deceased individual’s wishes as outlined in their will or in accordance with applicable laws in cases of intestate succession.

What are the Essential Pieces of an Estate Plan?

A probate and estate administration attorney in Moorestown, NJ will discuss your estate planning goals and create a tailored plan using legal tools such as:

  • Last Will and Testament: 
    • Wills are employed to designate individuals who will inherit a person’s assets upon their passing. 
    • Specifies asset distribution among beneficiaries, appoints a representative for estate oversight, and designates guardians for minors.
  • Trust: 
    • Trusts typically complement a will. 
    • Avoids probate, and can distribute property to individuals or charities. Can take effect during your lifetime or after death, with various types available for tax minimization or asset control.
  • Living Will: 
    • Details end-of-life medical preferences, such as resuscitation or feeding tube usage, and appoints a healthcare representative for decision-making in case of incapacitation.
  • Power of Attorney: 
    • This document grants an attorney-in-fact the authority to make decisions on a person’s behalf. It can take effect immediately or when he/she is incapacitated.

What are the Steps in New Jersey’s Standard Probate Process?

If an estate doesn’t meet the criteria for simplified procedures, and its assets must undergo probate, it will typically follow the standard probate process in New Jersey, managed by the probate court, also known as the surrogate court, in the county where the deceased person resided. The key steps in the New Jersey probate process are outlined below, and if all proceeds smoothly, the process usually concludes within a year.

Appointment of an Executor or Administrator:

  • If named in the will, the executor can be appointed 10 days after death by presenting the will, death certificate, and witness testimony if needed. 
  • If no will exists or the named person is unavailable, the court appoints an administrator, prioritizing the surviving spouse or partner.

Issuance of Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration:

  • After validating the will, the court grants authority via “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration” for the executor/administrator to manage assets, pay debts, and distribute property.

Notice to Heirs and Beneficiaries:

  • Within 60 days of probate, the executor or administrator must notify all heirs and beneficiaries named in the will about the proceedings.

Handling Estate Assets:

  • Executors/administrators handle assets, open estate bank accounts, and maintain detailed records for court scrutiny.

Dealing With Debts and Taxes:

  • Debts and expenses are settled following priority laws. An Order Limiting Creditors can be requested for a nine-month window for claims.

Filing Tax Returns:

  • Income tax returns for the deceased and potentially for the estate must be filed. Large estates might incur federal estate tax, and New Jersey has an inheritance tax.

Distributing Property and Closing the Estate:

  • Assets are distributed as per the will or state law after debts, taxes, and expenses are cleared. 
  • Once all tasks are completed, including debt payments, tax filings, and property distribution, the court relieves the executor/administrator of their duties, closing the estate.

Why Do I Need a Moorestown, NJ Probate and Estate Administration Attorney?

While navigating the probate and estate administration process in Moorestown, NJ, might seem manageable at first, complications can arise, making legal guidance invaluable. Here are some reasons why you might benefit from an attorney’s skill and experience:

  • Ensuring a Smooth Sailing Process: Lawyers understand NJ probate intricacies, saving time, stress, and avoiding missteps. They anticipate issues, reduce delays and disputes, and handle complex paperwork, letting you focus on emotional well-being.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Attorneys can defend the will’s validity in contests, shield the estate from invalid creditor claims, and navigate tax implications to minimize burdens for beneficiaries.
  • Handle Complex Situations: They guide through intestacy laws without a will, handle complexities in blended families, and manage real estate matters, ensuring smooth ownership transfers and resolving disputes.

In deciding whether to involve a Moorestown probate attorney, consider your specific situation. If you face challenges like will disputes, complex family dynamics, or intricate legal issues, seeking guidance ensures a smoother and protected journey through this sensitive process.

Call our Moorestown, NJ Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Now!

At Posternock Apell, P.C., our team of knowledgeable attorneys is well-versed in New Jersey probate law, offering skills and experience to guide you through each step. Whether you are facing potential complications, addressing will contests, or dealing with intricate family structures, our attorneys can provide the support and legal counsel needed for a successful resolution.

Preserving your interests and ensuring a fair asset distribution is our priority. Returning clients and referrals benefit from a complimentary consultation with our experienced team. This session delves into your unique situation, explores strategies, and offers insights for your specific probate and estate administration needs.

Contact Posternock Apell, P.C. today to schedule your free consultation, and let us help you understand the probate process with confidence and peace of mind.