Your guide to probate in New Jersey

For many of us, the term ‘probate’ is one we first hear when a loved one has passed away. But what does it mean for you, your loved one’s estate and the inheritors of the estate? Our experienced New Jersey estate planning attorneys have put together this guide to assist you through the probate process.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process, supervised by the court, which is required after someone passes away only if there are assets held solely in that person’s name at their time of death. The first step of this process is to determine this and, if there are no assets held in this manner, a Last Will and Testament does not have to enter the rest of the probate process. Probate will allow an appointed person (usually a family member) to gather the deceased person’s assets, settle debts and outstanding taxes and transfer assets to the inheritors.

Probate and non-probate assets

Some assets are not required to enter the probate process, including:

  • 401(k) plans, payable-upon-death bank accounts and assets held in join ownership.
  • Assets held in a revocable living trust.
  • Life insurance and pension payouts that name someone other than the estate as beneficiary (e.g.: a spouse or dependent).

Assets that are subject to probate can include:

  • Inherited property that the deceased received in his/her name.
  • Life insurance and pension payouts that name the estate as the sole beneficiary.
  •  401(k) plans, payable-upon-death bank accounts and assets that name the estate as the sole beneficiary.

What is the probate process?

The probate process may vary according to specific, more complex cases but can generally be simplified into five steps:

  • Validating the Last Will and Testament.
  • Appointing an executor of the Will.
  • Taking inventory of the estate.
  • Paying the estate’s debts and taxes.
  • Distributing remaining assets to the named beneficiaries.

Does a Last Will and Testament affect the probate process?

Having a valid Last Will and Testament vastly simplifies the probate process and ensures that you or your loved one’s assets go to the people of your choice rather than being left to the State of New Jersey and your executor’s discretion.

In order to ensure your Will is valid and will accomplish your intentions, it’s important to have it drawn up by an experienced attorney. For more information, contact us today and speak to an attorney at Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, LLC. With over 30 years of experience in New Jersey estate planning law, we’ll deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your needs – whether your estate is big or small.

Are you the “Executor” of a Will? Here’s a helpful guide to your duties and responsibilities

Probate law in New Jersey can be complex, especially if you have been named as the executor of a deceased person’s Will. Hiring an attorney who specializes in estate planning will be helpful, but we’ve created a list of duties and responsibilities so that you can familiarize yourself with your new role in the meantime:

Analyze the will and documents

If the deceased had a living trust and all of his or her assets form part of the trust, then you will be able to avoid probate and the funds can be distributed according to the Will without waiting for approval by a court. If the assets weren’t transferred to the trust prior to death, then it will be your responsibility to offer the funds for probate and you will need a judge to approve the dispersal of the funds.

Administrative duties

As the Executor of the will, you will be responsible for closing the deceased’s financial accounts, finalizing the tax processes and cancelling any government benefits that the deceased received prior to his or her death. The funeral home will give you a death certificate (which you will need in order to complete all these administrative tasks) and you will also be responsible for arranging and executing the funeral.

Determine the value of the assets and distribute assets accordingly

The Executor is also responsible for locating all the assets in the Will. These assets typically include real estate, vehicles, artwork, furniture, electronics and so forth. The attorneys who prepared the Will can help you with this, but you aren’t obligated to hire the original attorneys who prepared the Will for the deceased. After locating all the assets and determining their value, you will be responsible for distributing the assets according to the Will.

Let us help guide you through the New Jersey probate process

Make sure you and your loved ones receive the inheritance that was left for you. If you are left with a last will and testament and want an uncomplicated way to understand and execute all your duties, book a consultation with our probate attorneys in New Jersey today.

What to do when a Will’s validity is contested – Advice from Elder Law specialists

While we would all like to hope and believe that our assets and estate would be passed on in accordance with our wishes, the sad truth is that many times this does not happen. Whether through negligence in planning properly before death, poorly drawn up wills and other documentation, or having multiple heirs who are not in agreement about their rights to property of the deceased. These disputes can be ugly, especially if large sums of money are at stake.

There are essentially two scenarios here:  Avoiding conflicts over your will after you die, and contesting a will left by someone else.

How to Challenge A Will’s Validity (Contested Will)

If you’ve recently experienced the passing of a loved one and the validity of their Will is being contested, your best bet is to have a lawyer review the current version of their Last Will and Testament.  A Last Will and Testament can be a complex document that requires an experienced eye to understand both what is said and what isn’t said and how that may affect your claim to property.

During the probate process, the will and all contested claims will be considered by a court when making a final disposition of the estate.  When you hire us represent your claim, our responsibilities will include:

  • Locating and analyzing the current Will.
  • Assessing its validity in the face of other documents
  • Presenting your claim to a probate court.
  • Negotiation with the executor and other principles of the will on your behalf.

How To Avoid Conflicts Over a Wills Validity After You Die.

On the flip side, if you are concerned that you may be leaving your estate into a potentially divisive situation.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1.   Involve your heirs in the estate planning process. The more they understand your wishes before you die, the less likely they are to fight over it afterwards.
  2. Draft a comprehensive and an “air-tight” will.  This kind of work is not for the do-it-yourselfer, you should be hiring a competent elder law attorney to do this.
  3. Be fair in the distribution of your estate. You know who is likely to challenge your will.  Sometimes its better to leave them something than risk that they muddy the waters later.

SCC Legal can Represent Your Interests Through the Probate Process.

During the probate process, the will and all contested claims will be considered by a court when making a final disposition of the estate.  Frank Campisano of SCC Legal is highly experienced at providing successful resolutions to these matters as part of his commitment  to providing outstanding elder law services in New Jersey. If you would like more information about elder law and all it entails, if you are in need of legal advice, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

We look forward to hearing from you.

New Jersey’s Probate Court Process

by Frank Campisano

The Probate Court of NJ and its processes can be a confusing and frustrating exercise for families already dealing with the loss of a loved one. Heirs can be forced to wait months, even years to get final disposition of the estate, even when a proper will exists. Your goal in your family’s estate planning is to arrange and legally document the distribution of all assets to insure that the absolute minimum time is spent in probate, and that all the heirs get their inheritances as soon as possible. Only in this way can families put this difficult period behind them and get on with their lives.

What is the NJ Probate Process?

Probate is a legal process whereby a deceased’s will and testament is proven to be a legal and official document. This has to be done before the estate can be handed over to the various beneficiaries or descendants. During this process, it is the duty of the court to ensure the following are observed:

  • The correct version of the will is received and presented to those concerned while adhering to the correct probate process.
  • Listen to objections regarding the will.
  • All creditors of the deceased have been compensated. Especially the taxes due the government… Some say this is the primary reason for the length of the probate process (-:
  • All remaining property is distributed to the designated beneficiaries according to the terms and conditions of the will.

What happens if someone dies without having a will in place?

If your loved one has passed on without having a will in place, they are said to have died “intestate.” When this happens, a court appoints an individual called an Administrator to handle and distribute the estate legally.

The NJ probate process ensures all probate cases (this is where the will needs to be ascertained as original and legal) need to go through the surrogate court which is located within the county where the individual has died. This court distributes the required legal documentation either for an Administrator or an Executor to deal with the proceedings (a descendant who can handle the affairs of the estate).

Do I need a NJ Probate Lawyer to represent me through this process?

It really depends on how complex the estate is, how clear the Will is, and how many individuals are designated heirs. In a very simple situation with one hier and a proper will in place, an astute individual could probably navigate the process. But mistakes in filing documents, providing various proofs, and dealing with the taxation issues can cost you thousands, not to mention the time and experience it requires to get it done quickly and correctly. Small mistakes made providing information can result in large delays, after all we’re dealing with the government here. It is not uncommon for a contested estate to sit in probate court for years. An experienced probate lawyer can save you time, money, and aggravation through this process, regardless of the size or legal condition of the decedent’s estate. For these reasons, the vast majority of people choose to hire a qualified elder law attorney or probate lawyer.

Frank Campisano of SCC Legal is dedicated to the practice of elder law including acting as a probate attorney. He can assist with complete estate planning processes in New Jersey and will ensure you are professionally advised on the probate process and what is involved. Whether you would like to properly plan to pass your estate onto your children, or if you are trying to sort out the estate of a deceased loved one, Frank and his team are empathetic trusted advisors and that makes all the difference.

NJ Elder Law Attorney Frank CampisanoAuthor Frank Campisano is a certified member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorney’s (NAELA) and is the Elder Law Attorney in Residence for SCC Legal of Wayne NJ. Frank has particular expertise in Trusts and Estate Planning as well as medicaid asset planning for long term care. Frank has a passion for helping families navigate the complexities of estate management and the general concerns of aging individuals, their heirs, and their families.

 

New Jersey Probate Court

The Probate Court of NJ and its processes can be a confusing and frustrating exercise for families already dealing with the loss of a loved one. Heirs can be forced to wait months, even years to get final disposition of the estate, even when a proper will exists. Your goal in your family’s estate planning is to arrange and legally document the distribution of all assets to insure that the absolute minimum time is spent in probate, and that all the heirs get their inheritances as soon as possible. Only in this way can families put this difficult period behind them and get on with their lives.

What is the NJ Probate Process?

Probate is a legal process whereby a deceased’s will and testament is proven to be a legal and official document. This has to be done before the estate can be handed over to the various beneficiaries or descendants. During this process, it is the duty of the court to ensure the following are observed:

  • The correct version of the will is received and presented to those concerned while adhering to the correct probate process.
  • Listen to objections regarding the will.
  • All creditors of the deceased have been compensated. Especially the taxes due the government…  Some say this is the primary reason for the length of the probate process (-:
  • All remaining property is distributed to the designated beneficiaries according to the terms and conditions of the will.

What happens if someone dies without having a will in place?

If your loved one has passed on without having a will in place, they are said to have died “intestate.”  When this happens, a court appoints an individual called an Administrator to handle and distribute the estate legally.

The NJ probate process ensures all probate cases (this is where the will needs to be ascertained as original and legal) need to go through the surrogate court which is located within the county where the individual has died. This court distributes the required legal documentation either for an Administrator or an Executor to deal with the proceedings (a descendant who can handle the affairs of the estate).

Do I need a NJ Probate Lawyer to represent me through this process?

It really depends on how complex the estate is, how clear the Will is, and how many individuals are designated heirs.  In a very simple situation with one hier and a proper will in place, an astute individual could probably navigate the process.  But mistakes in filing documents, providing various proofs, and dealing with the taxation issues can cost you thousands, not to mention the time and experience it requires to get it done quickly and correctly. Small mistakes made providing information can result in large delays, after all we’re dealing with the government here.  An experienced probate lawyer can save you time, money, and aggravation through this process, regardless of the size or legal condition of the decedent’s estate. For these reasons, the vast majority of people choose to hire a qualified elder law attorney or probate lawyer.

Frank Campisano of SCC Legal is dedicated to the practice of elder law including acting as a probate attorney.  He can assist with complete estate planning processes in New Jersey and will ensure you are professionally advised on the probate process and what is involved. Whether you would like to properly plan to pass your estate onto your children, or if you are trying to sort out the estate of a deceased loved one, Frank and his team are empathetic trusted advisors and that makes all the difference.

 

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