New Jersey Estate Law FAQs

estate law Sea Girt, NJ

The adage of death and taxes being the only certain things in life are still true in New Jersey, but at least New Jersey offers some set guidelines of what to expect with its estate law rules. 

Q. Do I need a will?

A. Yes, New Jersey citizens must have a will.  A will is an essential estate law document that makes the entire post-mortem process much simpler, regardless of the size of the estate.  A will can range from a fairly simple document passing an entire estate to one person or the more sophisticated documents. This can include creating trusts and identifying guardians for any minor children.

Make no mistake – a will is still an important document to have even if other estate planning strategies exist, so make your life and death easier by having a will.  Fortunately, they’re fairly easy to create in New Jersey.  An important note to remember during the creation of a will is that a will must be properly executed to be valid in New Jersey.

In other words, a will must not have any defects or any suspicious or confusing circumstances surrounding it.  In the event of a serious defect to a will, the will might be rejected by the New Jersey courts leading to the unfortunate process explained below.

Q. What happens if I don’t have a will?

A. As hinted above, dying without a properly executed will almost derail the entire process.  This situation is called dying intestate, creating an unavoidable situation knowing as intestate succession.  New Jersey created these estate laws, which automatically process an estate in accordance with New Jersey rules, resulting in many likely unintended consequences. These consequences include some parts of the estate being given to some members that may not have made the cut otherwise.  A beloved niece or heir might not receive anything at all because the automatic laws of intestacy are entirely rigid, allowing no possibility of specific gift determinations. 

Q. What is the basic legal process after death?

A. In general, the legal process following a person’s death is called the probate process.  The probate process is handled by New Jersey’s surrogate court, with a surrogate judge in each county.  This branch of the New Jersey court system is broader than just dealing with estate law matters, handling guardianship, adoption, and similar family matters, but does deal with probate for these purposes.

Q. Does my estate have to go through probate?  

A. Yes.  Contrary to a common misunderstanding, probate is just the process that is used to settle the estate.  Though the probate process can get bogged down by legal matters, probate does not unduly delay the processing of the estate. Still, some delays can occur during probate, such as other parties contesting the will, filing lawsuits to delay the process, etc.  Ultimately, probate via New Jersey’s surrogate courts is an essential part of New Jersey’s estate law process.

Q. What should I be on the lookout for?

A. Though different depending on the person, it is essential to remember how other areas of the law might affect a person’s estate.   Because the situations can vary so much, it is crucial to contact a trained New Jersey lawyer who will be able to better advise on the specific circumstances. 

 

Call (732) 449-0449 to schedule a consultation with Anthony J. Cafaro, P.C. in our Sea Girt office.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice

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