Sometimes people in New Jersey pass away without having created a will, meaning they died "intestate." This might be because they passed away unexpectedly, or they simply put off the process of creating a will until it was too late. Others in New Jersey may have executed a will, but do not have any other documents in their estate plan that will pass on their assets to their chosen heirs. When a person in New Jersey dies intestate or when they only have a will, their estate will be probated.
Probate can be a long and costly process. If a person doesn't have a will, state law dictates who inherits the deceased person's property. This means that property may end up in the hands of someone who would not be of the deceased's choosing. However, there are ways a person can bypass the probate process.
For example, if a person's assets are placed in a revocable trust, that trust will not be probated. This means those assets will go directly to the trust beneficiaries. In addition, if a person names someone as a beneficiary on a retirement account or life insurance policy, the proceeds from these assets will be distributed directly to the designated beneficiaries.
Also, sometimes spouses own a home together. If they hold it as tenancy by the entirety or as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, when one spouse dies the house will pass straight on to the surviving spouse. Finally, when a person has a bank account with funds they'd like to see pass on to a loved one, that person can include a transfer on death or payable on death clause that will allow the funds in the account to go straight to a specified person.
People in New Jersey may be very interested in ways they can bypass the probate process. They do not want to see their estate diminished, nor do they want their heirs to be burdened with having to deal with the time and expense of probate. The aforementioned estate planning documents may help people achieve these goals. In addition, they give a person more of a say in who inherits what, something that wouldn't happen if they died intestate. So, people should not put off executing a will, nor should a will be the only document in their estate plan if they wish to bypass probate.
Source: FindLaw, "New Jersey Probate Laws," accessed April 8, 2018