Understanding the Probate Process in New Jersey

When a person passes away, their assets must be disbursed according to their estate plan and applicable state laws.  Often this process involves a process called probate. At Hartmann Law LLC, we help executors, administrators and beneficiaries of estates through the probate process. The probate process starts with identifying estate assets and ends with the distribution of assets and inheritances to the beneficiaries. Schedule a dedicated time to speak with Hartmann Law or call us directly at 856-244-1001 to learn more.

What Constitutes Probate in New Jersey?

Probate is the administration process by which a deceased person's assets and belongings, known as their estate, are passed on to their heirs and successors. In New Jersey, if an unmarried person dies with assets in their name with total value of $20,000.00 or more, probate will be required.  If the decedent had a spouse, the value increases of $50,000.00 before formal probate is necessary.  In the case where the estate is less than that triggering the need for probate, a next of kin affidavit or spousal affidavit may be filed, in order to receive the documentation necessary to administer the estate in lieu of probate.  

The Early Stages of Probate

The probate process begins when the decedent passes away.  Probate application can be filed at any time, however, the letters of administration will not issue until at least ten days have passed following death.  Once the executor or administrator is appointed, they must:

  1. Notify the heirs;
  2. Publish notice for any creditors;
  3. Take inventory of the assets of the estate
  4. Collect and safeguard the assets of the estate

How probate proceeds depends on whether there is a Will or not.

Probate with a Will

If the decedent died with a Will, the Will must be found, authenticated and submitted with the probate application and certificate of death.  The terms of the Will will control the actions required of its executor.  

If there are no challenges to the Will, the executor must first pay off all debts of the estate. Once creditors are paid and taxes paid, the executor distributes the remainder to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will. 

If the Will is challenged, a hearing may be set. The challenger has the burden to prove the Will's invalidity. Challenges are often based on allegations of undue influence, fraud, or misrepresentation. Challenges are also brought forward when there is believed to be another Will invalidating the Will offered to the Surrogate.  

Probate without a Will

If there is no Will, the decedent is said to have died intestate. This does not mean their assets will not be inherited, it just means their property will pass to their heirs through the state's intestacy laws.

New Jersey statute will dictate who has a right to serve as administrator to the estate.  The application submitted to probate will identify the heirs at law.  If anyone has a superior right or more than one person has an equal right to the person seeking appointment as administrator, renunciations may be required allowing one to serve over the other.  If there is disagreement, a hearing may be set.  

Once appointed, the administrator will be required to provide a list of assets in the decedent's estate and secure a surety bond based upon the value of those assets. Similar to administration under a Will, creditors and taxes must be paid before remaining assets can be distributed to beneficiaries.  The beneficiaries are determined by relationship to the decedent under New Jersey statute.  

The End Stage of Probate

Once bills, debts and taxes are paid and the remaining assets are distributed, the administrator of the estate will submit any requisite documentation to ask the Surrogate to close the estate and release the individual from the role as administrator.

Do You Need a Probate Lawyer in New Jersey?

A probate lawyer offers important services that can help speed up the probate process.  A probate lawyer can help with the:

  • Collection of proceeds from life insurance policies
  • Identification and securing of estate assets
  • Appraisals for the decedent's real property
  • Payment of bills, debts, and applicable taxes
  • Resolution of any income or estate tax issue
  • Preparation and filing of all documents required by a probate court
  • Management of the estate checking account
  • Transfer of assets to beneficiaries 

Contact Hartmann Law Today

We are here to help you!  We can help you design a Life and Legacy Plan to avoid probate or minimize and survive challenges during probate. We can help you if you are the executor or beneficiary of an estate, and we can also guide you through the probate process. If you have questions, contact Hartmann Law using this link or call 856-244-1001 to schedule your dedicated Free Initial Consultation today. Hartmann Law LLCprovides custom Life and Legacy Plans for today with an eye on the future - by design and not by default.