Whether a deceased person has a will or dies without any estate plan, some of their assets may have to go through a process called probate before they are distributed to beneficiaries. Unfortunately, because probate requires significant court involvement and is meant to ensure the payment of taxes and outstanding debts, it can add months of additional work to estate administration proceedings that were already complex and overwhelming to begin with.

However, there are ways that a skilled trusts and estates attorney could help you manage the probate process and shorten it significantly. With assistance from a seasoned Mount Laurel probate lawyer, you could minimize your family’s stress while still ensuring compliance with all applicable state probate laws.

Steps in the Mount Laurel Probate Process

Probate begins with the executor named in a decedent’s will formally requesting an appointment as executor in the Surrogate’s Court with jurisdiction over the estate in question. If there is no valid will available to support such a request, the court may appoint an administrator to fill the same role that an executor would. An executor or administrator who is not a Mount Laurel resident may also need to post a bond to protect against mismanagement of estate assets.

Once approved by the court, the executor or administrator is responsible for creating an inventory of all probate assets, accurately valuating them, and liquidating estate property to pay off any debts or tax obligations that the decedent had prior to their death. There may also be additional steps required depending on the circumstances which a New Jersey probate attorney could address.

If any probate assets remain once these steps are complete, they may then be distributed to named beneficiaries or family members of the decedent in accordance with probate law in the absence of a will. An executor or administrator has 60 days following the beginning of the probate process to notify eligible beneficiaries by mail that this proceeding has begun.

What Assets Are Subject to Probate?

Importantly, not every asset in a deceased person’s estate is necessarily subject to probate. Only assets that a decedent owned solely in their own name and did not place into any kind of trust prior to their death must go through the probate process. Jointly owned property, life insurance and/or pension benefits, and assets with beneficiaries designated outside of a will, like payable-on-death bank accounts, are not subject to probate in Mount Laurel.

Additionally, if the total value of all assets in a deceased person’s estate does not exceed $50,000, New Jersey Revised Statutes §3B:10-3 allows for their surviving spouse or domestic partner to inherit all those assets without having to go through probate. 

If no surviving spouse or partner exists and an estate’s total value is less than $20,000, state law allows a surviving heir to file an affidavit seeking ownership over all estate assets without probate, provided they have written consent to do so from any other eligible heirs. A qualified lawyer could explain this simplified Mount Laurel probate process in further detail if applicable.

A Mount Laurel Attorney Could Simplify the Probate Process

Going through probate is an invariably challenging part of the estate administration process, and it can drag out even longer if you are unfamiliar with how state law addresses and governs this procedure. With help from experienced legal counsel, though, you could go into probate with the knowledge and guidance you need to progress through it efficiently.

A New Jersey probate lawyer could be a critical advocate to have on your side following the death of a loved one. Call today to set up a consultation.