Is Probate Required in New Jersey?

In short, probate is likely necessary in New Jersey, with three very specific exceptions.

First, in certain rare occasions, probate is not required for estates that might fall below a certain economic threshold, eliminating the need for court supervision.

Second, specific assets do not require court supervision because they transfer automatically at the time of death. 

Third, if the deceased person created a Living Trust, which holds assets belonging to the deceased, only those assets included in the Living Trust will not proceed through the probate process.

Understanding the probate process

The assets that will automatically transfer include:

  • Real property held in joint tenancy (and forms of property that function like joint tenancy)
  • Beneficiary designations such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies
  • Specific financial accounts that are payable on death

Because the vast majority of deceased individual’s assets will be required to undergo the probate process in New Jersey, it is crucial to understand what will happen. Probate is the legal process for which a person’s estate is settled after their death. The probate process is either identified by the deceased’s Will or appointed by the court.

The person appointed to be the executor of the estate has the legal responsibility first to identify and evaluate all assets involved in the estate, pay any outstanding taxes or bills, and then distribute any remaining funds to the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries. In New Jersey, probate proceedings can be either: informal, supervised, and supervised formal. 

Informal Probate

If fortunate, the probate proceeding will be informal. This scenario occurs when the relevant heirs and beneficiaries do not have to resolve any disputes before distributing the remaining funds. This process also requires the absence of any outstanding problems when it comes to possible creditors and lenders.

To begin the informal probate process, a representative must file an application with a New Jersey probate court, who will then act as the executor of the deceased’s estate. 

Unsupervised Formal Probate

A little more complicated, the unsupervised formal probate process is considered to be a court proceeding, which means that the representative managing the estate requires judicial approval.  In these situations, a judge must approve of the representative’s actions such as selling property, paying any outstanding creditors, and distributing assets.

This probate proceeding is triggered when there is a dispute over the representative’s actions, prompting judicial intervention. 

Supervised Formal Probate

The most complex probate process occurs when the court supervises the probate process in its entirety. Judicial approval is required to distribute all property and is similarly triggered when disputes occur over the estate. New Jersey surrogate courts have jurisdiction over probate matters, which appoints or recognizes the executor of the estate.

The surrogate court examines the legal documents submitted to ensure authenticity. The probate process concludes with the distribution of remaining estate assets and, if all goes well, can usually be completed in a year after the deceased’s time of death. 

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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