When someone passes away in the state of New Jersey, certain types of assets in their estate are subject to probate. Essentially, this is a court process in which a person representing the deceased individual oversees the process of distributing their assets to beneficiaries or heirs in accordance with state and federal law.
Under ideal conditions, the probate process in Manalapan Township can take up to a year to be completed, and can result in legal disputes between beneficiaries, creditors, family members, and a host of other interested parties. If you want to progress through probate efficiently and quickly, retaining a seasoned probate lawyer could be beneficial.
What Are the Steps of the Probate Process?
In Manalapan Township, the probate process begins with a decedent’s designated executor formally requesting that role before a surrogate court, or, if the decedent did not have a will or did not name an executor, with the court naming the administrator of the decedent’s estate. In either case, the executor or administrator must send notice that the probate process has begun to all named beneficiaries and/or heirs of the decedent no later than 60 days after the court’s acknowledgement.
Next, the executor or administrator is responsible for recording and valuating every probate-eligible asset in the decedent’s estate, including real property and financial accounts. Once this is done, the executor or administrator is responsible for using the decedent’s probate assets to clear any outstanding debts held by the decedent, to whatever degree the assets are capable of covering them.
The probate process is completed when the executor or administrator distributes the remainder of the decedent’s assets and property to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will, or to the decedent’s heirs following the priority order set by state law. The surrogate court will relieve the executor or administrator of their duties once this last step is complete.
Simplified Probate for Small Estates
Probate only applies to assets owned solely and entirely in a testator’s name, so jointly owned assets, life insurance proceeds, and assets put into revocable living trusts do not need to go through probate. There are two situations under which the probate process in Manalapan Township can be significantly shortened, as per New Jersey Revised Statutes §§3B:10-3 and 3B:10-4.
First, the surviving spouse or domestic partner of someone who did not write a valid will and whose entire estate is valued at less than $50,000 is eligible upon request to receive the entire value of that estate through a simplified probate process. However, that spouse or partner is obligated to use all but $10,000 of their deceased partner’s estate to pay back creditors, if any have valid claims to pursue against the decedent.
Second, a single heir of someone who died without a valid will, without a surviving spouse or partner, and less than $20,000 in cash and assets in their estate can seek immediate ownership over the entire estate through a court affidavit, provided they have written consent to do so other from the other heirs. A local attorney could offer further clarification about whether a simplified probate process may be available in a given situation.
A Manalapan Township Attorney Could Offer Guidance Throughout the Probate Process
Each individual step of the probate process requires a great deal of work by the executor or administrator and can take months to fully complete. In that time, a number of disagreements and issues could extend the procedure even further, leading to frustrating delays and potentially unhappy beneficiaries.
If you are about to go through the probate process in Manalapan Township as an executor, administrator, beneficiary, or heir, seeking advice from a lawyer could help keep you on the right track towards a positive and speedy resolution. Call today to discuss your options.