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 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.
Having the Right Lawyer on Your Side
Having the right lawyer on your side is something critical to smoothing over the probate process. Without an experienced and skilled lawyer, probate could take much longer to maneuver and overall be a much more stressful process than is needed. A probate lawyer in Bergen County, NJ can offer their knowledge and experience to you in these stressful and confusing times. There are some instances where probate may even be able to be significantly shorter than expected, which is why it is important to have good legal counsel on your behalf.
Administrators & Executors
If a person dies without a will, then the state of New Jersey may name an administrator to take charge of the processes that will need to be completed following someone’s death. This is usually appointed to a spouse, but could also go to a family member. An executor is someone who is named to take care of the processes following that person’s death and is usually appointed to do so in a will. This person will then be tasked with certain duties like sending out notices to heirs to let them know about their inheritances, as well as various other tasks. A probate lawyer in Bergen County, NJ from Kaplan Law Practice, LLC can go over in more detail about all of the different tasks that an executor or administrator will need to fulfill. The person who fulfills this role is also entitled to a commission, which will depend upon the size of the inheritance. When you speak with your lawyer they will let you know all of the details concerning the specifics for this commission. Carrying out this important duty is something that is understood to be sometimes difficult, which is why this commission is in place.
Taxes & Debts
Navigating through your loved ones’ finances and trying to understand all of the different things that are taxable can be difficult. When someone dies who is in debt, or is unable to pay off their bills, things can get even trickier. State law is what comes into play here and having the right lawyer on your side to guide you through could save you ample time, energy, and money. Another thing to consider is the New Jersey inheritance tax. Under this statute, which is somewhat unique to New Jersey, it is important to know that the actual inheritance is taxable to the individual receiving it. This means that the inheritor will be taxed a certain percentage based on their relationship with the deceased. A close family member will have a lower tax burden than someone not related.
Potential disputes are one of the main reasons why it’s important to have a Bergen County, NJ probate lawyer on your side. Lawyers who specialize in probate and estate planning understand the different nuances and complexities that go along with familial and financial disputes as a result of someone’s will. Our lawyers from Kaplan Law Practice, LLC are skilled and experienced in handling will contests and other disputes that have arisen from these matters. We know how to establish a plan and get the results that our clients desire. Contact us today to assist you with probate and the different issues that arise.
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.