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Understanding the probate process

| Jan 25, 2021 | Estate Administration & Probate |

When someone dies and has assets, the distribution of the assets and property go through probate. This is a legal process, and it occurs whether or not the person had a will.

Probate may seem daunting, but in most cases, it is a fairly simple process as long as there is an understanding about how it works.

Probate basics

According to the New Jersey Courts, probate occurs in the county Surrogate Court. Either the will names a personal representative, or the court will. This person must present the death certificate and will or list of assets in order to begin the probate process.

The personal representative then must contact and inform all beneficiaries and heirs, locate and valuate all the decedent’s assets, pay all bills of the estate, locate and inform creditors and pay any creditor’s bills. Once the representative pays all the necessary debts, he or she distributes the remaining assets to the rightful heirs.

The personal representative must give all heirs living in the state at least 10 days’ notice, and those living outside of the state at least 60 days’ notice. Creditors must also have enough notice.

According to FindLaw, not all assets go through probate. Assets that skip it include property owned by a revocable trust, real estate with joint owners, retirement accounts and life insurance policies with beneficiaries and bank accounts with a transfer on death or payable on death clause.

Expedited probate process

There are two types of small estate probate administration that allow for a quicker and more streamlined approach. One type is when there is no will, the property value is $20,000 or less and the only beneficiary is the surviving spouse or partner. The other type is when there is no will, the property value is $10,000 or less, there is no surviving spouse and there is only one heir. All other estates must go through traditional probate.