Has a loved one recently passed on? Did he or she have assets subject to the probate process? If so, and you are responsible for tying up the loose ends, you are faced with several important decisions. Although probate does not always come into play, such as if a person held all their assets in a trust, there are times when there is no way around this. As a result, you need to learn more about the probate process, as well as the way the probate court will handle each and every step.
What is Probate?
Nolo defines probate as follows: “Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies.” While this sounds simple enough, you need to understand what it includes:
- Proving in court that the will is valid.
- Making note of all property owned by the deceased at the time of his or her death.
- Property appraisal.
- The payment of all taxes and debts.
- Distributing any remaining property based on the direction of the will.
New Jersey Probate Process
It’s easy to believe that the probate process is the same from one state to the next, but this isn’t true. New Jersey, for example, has a unique way of doing things. It can be helpful to learn more about the New Jersey probate process, including what’s expected of you. When the time comes to do so, turn your attention to these resources:
- RULE 4:80. Application To Surrogate’s Court For Probate Or Administration (New Jersey Courts)
- Probate of Wills (Mercer County)
- Probate (Camden County)
As a resident of New Jersey, you’ll want to begin your search for information on the New Jersey Courts website. Along with this, once you are familiar with the basics, you can drill down to the county level.
Estate Tax Information
You never know what your situation will be in regards to estate taxes, both on the state and federal level. Even if a large amount of taxes is not owed, it’s important to understand your legal obligations. The State of New Jersey Department of the Treasury is the place to turn for state estate tax information. You can visit the department’s webpage here, or contact them via phone at 609-292-5033.
Note: Federal estate tax information is available on the IRS website here.
Estate Planning and Probate
As you create an estate plan, you need to think about the decisions your family will be faced with upon your death. The plan that you put into place will have a big impact on the probate process, including whether or not it actually takes place. There are a variety of resources that can help you better understand estate planning, such as which approach is best. Consider the following:
- Estate Planning Council of Northern New Jersey
- State of New Jersey Department of State
- Greater New Jersey Estate Planning Council
- New Jersey Estate Planning Laws
- American Bar Association
Steps in the Probate Process
Even as you learn more about the probate process, you may be surprised at some of the things that are expected of you along the way. Regardless, you need to work within the limits of the law, ensuring that you get through this in a fast and efficient manner.
The four basic steps of probate include:
- File a petition with the probate court and notify all heirs and beneficiaries.
- Take inventory of estate property and notify creditors. This is a job for the personal representative.
- Pay debts, taxes, and funeral expenses from the estate.
- All property is transferred to the appropriate party as governed by the state and outlined in the will.
Questions for Your Attorney
When creating an estate plan, it’s a good idea to focus on the probate process and how this will unfold upon your death. Your attorney can answer any questions you may have, such as:
- What decisions can I make today to help my family avoid probate in the future?
- What is the difference between a will and trust when it comes to probate?
- Can you explain the probate process in New Jersey?
- Is it true that probate can be both costly and time consuming? How can this be avoided?
If you have questions like this, if you need to learn more about the probate process, it’s time to take on this situation. It doesn’t matter if you are preparing your own estate or dealing with issues regarding your loved one’s probate, we are here to help. If you live in East Brunswick or Lakewood, New Jersey, we can help you make sense of the probate process. Contact Levine, Furman, & Rubin LLC online or via phone at 732-238-6000.