5 Common Questions About New Jersey Probate

February 13, 2024
Erin Calpin, Esq.

Navigating the probate process in New Jersey can often seem like a daunting journey, filled with legal complexities and emotional challenges. Whether you're an executor tasked with administering a loved one's estate or a beneficiary seeking clarity on your rights, understanding the ins and outs of probate is essential. From deciphering state laws to managing assets and resolving potential disputes, the road to settling an estate can be paved with uncertainty. In this blog, we delve into the intricacies of New Jersey probate, offering insights, guidance, and practical tips to help you navigate this often-overwhelming terrain with confidence and clarity.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's will is validated by the court and their assets are distributed according to their wishes outlined in the will or according to state law if there is no will (intestate succession).

During probate, the court oversees the administration of the deceased person's estate, which includes:

1. Identifying and inventorying the deceased person's assets.

2. Appraising the value of the assets.

3. Paying debts and taxes owed by the estate.

4. Distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries as specified in the will or according to state law.

Probate can be a lengthy and potentially expensive process, involving court fees, legal fees, and other administrative costs. However, it provides a structured legal framework for resolving any disputes among heirs or creditors and ensures that the deceased person's assets are distributed appropriately. In some cases, assets may be distributed outside of probate through mechanisms such as trusts or joint ownership arrangements.

5 Common Questions and Answers About New Jersey Probate

1. Do all estates in New Jersey have to go through probate? No, not all estates in New Jersey are required to go through probate. Estates with assets held jointly with rights of survivorship, assets held in trust, or assets with designated beneficiaries such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts may pass outside of probate.

2. How long does the probate process typically take in New Jersey? The duration of probate in New Jersey can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and whether there are any disputes among beneficiaries or creditors. However, it typically ranges from several months to over a year.  The time to probate a Will and receive letters testamentary can be as short as two weeks.  However, the time to administer the estate will most often take longer.

3. What are the costs associated with probate in New Jersey? Probate costs in New Jersey may include court fees, attorney fees, executor fees, appraisal fees, and other administrative expenses. These costs can vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate.  The cost to probate the Will is typically less than $200 and is calculated on the number of pages in the Will.  The other costs of probate involve the costs of the estate administration.

4. Can the executor of a will in New Jersey be compensated? Yes, the executor of a will in New Jersey is entitled to receive reasonable compensation for their services unless the will specifically states otherwise or the executor waives their right to compensation. The amount of compensation is typically determined based on factors such as the size and complexity of the estate.

5. What happens if someone dies without a will in New Jersey? If someone dies without a will in New Jersey, their assets will be distributed according to the state's intestacy laws. Typically, this means that assets will be distributed to the deceased person's closest relatives, such as their spouse, children, parents, or siblings, in a predetermined order of priority outlined by state law. The probate court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets in the absence of a will.

Should I Hire a New Jersey Probate Attorney?

Whether or not to hire a New Jersey probate attorney depends on the complexity of the estate and your comfort level with navigating legal processes. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Complexity of the Estate: If the estate is relatively simple, with few assets and no disputes among beneficiaries or creditors, you may be able to handle probate without an attorney. However, if the estate is complex, involves significant assets, or if there are potential disputes, it's advisable to seek legal guidance.

2. Legal Knowledge and Experience: Probate involves navigating various legal procedures and requirements. If you're unfamiliar with probate laws in New Jersey or if you're unsure about your rights and responsibilities as an executor or beneficiary, hiring an attorney can provide valuable expertise and guidance.

3. Minimizing Errors and Delays: Probate can be a time-consuming and potentially error-prone process. An experienced probate attorney can help you navigate the process efficiently, minimize delays, and ensure that all legal requirements are met, reducing the risk of costly mistakes.

4. Resolving Disputes: If there are disputes among beneficiaries, creditors, or other parties involved in the estate, an attorney can help mediate conflicts and advocate for your interests, potentially avoiding litigation and costly legal battles.

5. Peace of Mind: Hiring a probate attorney can provide peace of mind, knowing that you have a knowledgeable advocate guiding you through the probate process and ensuring that your loved one's estate is handled appropriately.

Ultimately, whether to hire a New Jersey probate attorney depends on your individual circumstances and comfort level with legal matters. Consulting with an attorney can help you evaluate your options and make an informed decision based on your specific needs and the complexity of the estate.


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Borenstein, McConnell & Calpin, P.C. is a Wills & Estate Planning law firm serving Central and Northern New Jersey, as well as New York City. We strive not only to give you a great client experience, but to become your trusted adviser for life. To reach Alec, please send an email to alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

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