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.