More Help for Modest Estates in New Jersey

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For people of modest means, the estate administration process often adds legal and administrative expenses that serve only to reduce the amount of the estate that passes onto heirs. In addition to these hard costs, a lot of the heirs’ time and energy can be lost at a time when they are likely already grieving the loss of a loved one. It hardly seems worth it to process these modest estates.

Fortunately, the State of New Jersey recognizes the burden that estate administration can place on people of modest means and thus always allowed intestate estates valued at less than $20,000.00 to pass to a surviving spouse or partner without the need for administration. An intestate estate is an estate where there is no Will.

Recently, the New Jersey State Legislature passed two new laws which expand upon this policy. First, the amount that can be transferred to a surviving spouse or partner has been increased to $50,000.00. This adjustment will allow a much larger number of estates to pass without administration and should serve to alleviate unnecessary stress on many New Jersey families.

If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse or partner, the maximum amount that could pass was previously $10,000.00, but that amount has also been increased and is now $20,000.00.

The second law assists some of the State’s least financially secure individuals — nursing home patients. Under this new law, nursing homes are required to work with residents to help them designate a beneficiary who will be entitled to any personal needs allowance funds that amount to $1,000.00 or less. The named beneficiary will usually be able to take these monies without administration.

If you have questions regarding your eligibility, or the eligibility of a loved one, under the provisions of either of these laws, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible. For residents of New York and New Jersey seeking estate planning assistance, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com, or call 908-236-6457.

Common Questions about New Jersey Estate Administration

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Becoming the Executor or personal representative of an estate is an important, yet often confusing, responsibility. Should a loved one or relative appoint you as Executor of their estate, you should contact an attorney. He/she can immediately alleviate much of the stress and confusion you experience as a result of your new obligation.

To further achieve that end, following are some common questions about NJ estate administration:

  • What is probate? — Probate is the legal process of validating a Will. To begin the probate process, go to the Surrogates Court with the original Will and the certificate of death. If the Will is not self-proven, one of the witnesses at the Will signing must validate the signature on the Will.
  • When do state inheritance taxes have to be paid? — In New Jersey, you must pay state inheritance taxes within eight months of the decedent’s death.
  • How can I retrieve a Will from a safety deposit box? — If you are the Executor of the Will, bring a copy of the Will with you that names you as the Executor. In some cases, a bank will allow the Executor to retrieve a Will with him or her present.
  • Do I have to serve as Executor of a will? — No, there is no law requiring you to serve as Executor of a Will. You may renounce your duty as Executor and the job will pass to the contingent executor if any exists. If there is no contingent executor, an Administrator will be appointed in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws.
  • How long does the probate process take? — The duration of the probate process depends on the complexity of the estate and the clarity and thoroughness of the Will. A vague Will may lead to a Will Contest, delaying the process further. Some large estates can take months or even years to settle.
  • What happens if there is no Will? — If no Will exists, an Administrator will be appointed to the estate and assets and property will be distributed based on New Jersey’s intestacy laws.

The job of an Executor can be daunting. Unless you have a background in law, you should not attempt the probate process alone. In the event you need help understanding estate administration in Hunterdon and Union Counties, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457.

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