Probate Lawyer Bergen County NJ
If you have questions about the probate process, please connect with an experienced probate lawyer Bergen County, NJ residents trust and please do so any time that additional questions arise. Our firm takes great pride in assisting fellow New Jersey residents with their estate planning, estate administration, and probate needs. It would be our honor to learn about your needs and to provide you with personalized guidance at any time.
It is worth noting that most of our clients raise probate-related concerns with our team when one of two significant life events occurs. First, clients ask questions about probate as they are creating and/or updating personal estate plans. Addressing concerns at this stage can help to prevent a contentious, stressful, or otherwise complicated probate process when their loved ones are administering their estate down the road. Second, clients ask probate-related questions when the issue of estate administration becomes urgent business as the result of a loved one’s death. Whether you’re creating an estate plan, updating an existing plan, or are navigating the process of a loved one’s estate administration, our Bergen, NJ probate lawyer team at the Law offices of Joshua Kaplan is here to help.
An Introduction to the New Jersey Probate Process
Unlike in many other states, New Jersey doesn’t simply employ the probate process when an individual dies without a will in place or when an estate-related dispute or concern arises. In New Jersey, everyone’s will is subjected to the probate process after they pass away. Generally speaking, probate is the process of legally proving a will. Meaning, probate allows the court and the public to be generally satisfied that someone’s will is authentic, enforceable, and ultimately honored. Because New Jersey law requires that everyone’s will be subjected to probate, it is that much more imperative that all New Jersey adults have a well-constructed, legally enforceable will in place at all times. Otherwise, your wishes could be misinterpreted or dismissed because your will wasn’t provable under the scrutiny of the probate process.
It is worth noting that preventing a lengthy, complex, and stressful probate process by ensuring that your estate plan is clear, up-to-date, and enforceable is a worthy gift to extend to your loved ones. Most people don’t think too much about how challenging it will be for their loved ones to navigate probate successfully in the wake of their death. However unpleasant it is to address this reality, it is a valuable use of your time.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process by which, after you die, your assets are distributed to your heirs. The probate court in the county of your legal residence oversees this process. If you made a last will and testament prior to your death, the court validates, i.e., proves up, your will. If you had no will, the court oversees asset distributions according to your state’s intestacy laws.
Your Probate Estate
Not all of your assets go through probate. The court only has jurisdiction over those things in your probate estate, such as the following:
- Assets you owned solely in your own name
- Untitled personal property, including clothing, furniture, appliances, household goods, etc. not mentioned in your will
- Property you owned as tenants in common with someone else
- Assets you willed to someone who is no longer alive
Your Probate-exempt Estate
The rest of your property and assets are exempt from probate. They include the following:
- Any assets for which you named a beneficiary, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc.
- Any assets, usually real property, that you owned in joint tenancy with someone else who has right of survivorship
- Any assets on which you placed a payable on death or transfer on death designation
- Any assets in a trust you established
Depending on the value of your probate estate, it may be exempt from the full probate process. The laws of virtually all states include a small estate provision that simplifies the probate process for probate estates valued under a certain amount or entirely eliminates the need for probate. Each state sets its own cap for which probate estates qualify. In California, for example, your probate estate qualifies if it has a value of $30,000 or less.
The whole purpose of probate is to ensure that all of your outstanding bills and taxes get paid and that your remaining assets pass to the proper heirs in a legal manner. One of the most important duties your estate administrator, sometimes called your personal representative, has is to notify all your creditors and potential heirs of your death. Your creditors then have a specified time in which to file claims against your probate estate for payment. Your potential heirs likewise have a specified time in which to challenge the validity of your will, assuming you had one.
Probate usually takes less than a year. However, if your heirs choose to go to court to fight over who receives what, the probate process can take years to conclude. Obtaining the advice and counsel of an experienced estate planning lawyer can prevent such contentious and costly disputes.
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you have yet to make an estate plan, need to update an existing estate plan, or you have probate-related questions due to the passing of a loved one, the knowledgeable legal team at Kaplan Law Practice, LLC is here to help. Please schedule a confidential, risk-free consultation with our team today so that we can provide you with personalized guidance. Our Bergen, NJ probate lawyer team looks forward to speaking with you.