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Probate Lawyer Bergen County NJ

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. Estate planning can be a confusing process, but if you want to secure assets or would like to prepare your plans for your estate, then it may be worth considering. We know how difficult and time-consuming estate planning can be. Thinking about your future and how your loved ones will be taken care of after you are gone can be an uncomfortable thought, but it is important that you put the right preparations in place. 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.

Many clients begin inquiring about estate plans after going through major life events. 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. Probate concerns must be addressed immediately to avoid further complications, and when it is taken care of properly it allows a decedent’s heirs to access their inheritance right away. Otherwise, if probate is necessary, the process could be made more complicated. If you have recently gone through one of these significant life events, you may want to discuss your matter with a skilled probate lawyer. 

Because estate planning is typically a complex process that involves a large amount of legal information with many steps, you likely have many questions about how to best approach it. Navigating the laws and going through the motions of administering an estate is often not straightforward. Whenever you are working on an estate plan, you want to be thorough and not make any mistakes that could result in unnecessary delays in the future. 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 court-supervised 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. Making sure that your will is detailed, carefully thought out, and includes the beneficiaries and heirs that you wish to pass your assets down to will help you avoid running into problems during the probate proceedings. Whenever you are making updates to a will, keep track of the changes you are making. The language in your will must be clear to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding. 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. Working on your estate plan and making sure to address probate can reduce the burden on your loved ones. Discuss your plans with them so you can be transparent about your goals, and they will be able to more efficiently navigate the probate process. 

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. Since the court will not necessarily follow your wishes if you do not have a will, it is strongly recommended that you create a will and include your directions for how you want your assets and property to be managed after your passing. 

In some cases, your loved ones may not have to go through probate, such as if you have a living trust as part of your estate plan. If you are not sure if your assets will go through probate or if you want to know how you can avoid probate, talk to a probate lawyer and they can provide you with detailed information. 

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

If you need assistance reviewing your assets and are not sure which ones will be subject to probate, contact a probate lawyer for assistance and they will be able to help you. 

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

Small Estates

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.

Probate Purpose

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

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

Estate planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can depend on a skilled estate planning lawyer so that you have the support you need as you navigate the process and determine what to include in your plan. 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.

Josh Kaplan is an excellent lawyer. He carefully listens to his clients and their needs and then provides the appropriate legal solutions. I strongly recommend anybody to use his services as he is very knowledgeable, honest and discreet and gets the job done within the promised time frame.

Eric C

Joshua Kaplan came immediately to the hospital when my relative was in an accident and was very helpful in expediting necessary documents which ultimately gave me the power to save My Godmother's life as she needed emergency life saving surgery and did not have a health care power of attorney prior to this accident. Mr. Kaplan was very professional as well as very caring and extremely helpful in this very stressful situation. I would highly recommend Mr.Joshua Kaplan for his legal expertise and cannot praise him enough for all his help.


My dealings with Joshua have been nothing but pleasant and the work he did for us was complete and done in a timely manner.

He was very attentive to our company's needs and gave us 110% for the work we needed completed.


We used Josh for many things. He did my patent. Wrote it quick and very through. He also did a TM and design patent for our company. I have used other Lawer for different things and have never been more happier. Josh was alway available, called us back within a day. We highly recommend kaplan law practice.

Leonora Malakh

Josh is skillful and diligent attorney that handles estates trusts in NY and NJ. So if you are looking for a lawyer to help you and guide through the complexities of probating your estate or inheritance he is capable of delivering needed results.


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