Probate is a court-supervised method of administering an estate, whether the decedent has left a will or trust or not. Probate courts can oversee the distribution of assets, determine the validity of a testamentary document, and order an accounting of funds by a trustee or administrator.
Probate in New Jersey can be a confusing and lengthy process. An executor typically has significant responsibilities under such circumstances, and sometimes the beneficiaries of the estate may question their actions.
If you are about to become involved with estate probate, it may serve you well to retain an informed New Jersey probate lawyer. An experienced legal professional may make the entire undertaking easier and allow you to proceed more efficiently through it.
Personal Representatives for Probate in New Jersey
As defined by New Jersey Revised Statutes §3B:1-2, a personal representative can be either an administrator or an executor. An administrator might be placed in charge of distributing the assets of a deceased person who dies without leaving a will, trust, or another directive. Conversely, an executor may be appointed to administer a published testamentary document.
A personal representative may be replaced by a successor personal representative, should circumstances require it. These important appointees are given fiduciary duties of loyalty and due care with regard to the assets and property. A seasoned New Jersey probate attorney could discuss the duties incumbent upon personal representatives with interested parties.
Challenging a Personal Representative in New Jersey
A claimant who stands to benefit from estate probate may challenge the competence of a personal representative. A New Jersey probate court may order one or more of the following remedies if it sees fit:
- Order of accounting by the executor or trustee
- Removal of the personal representative
- Disallowing an executor’s commission
- Creation of a constructive trust for misappropriated assets
Interested Witnesses to a Probated Will
During the probate of a will in New Jersey, if a beneficiary discovers that a subscribing witness to the will stands to benefit from it as well, they may file a challenge. However, the signature of an interested witness on a will may not invalidate the document altogether.
Per N.J.R.S. §3B:3-8, a will may not be declared invalid merely because it was witnessed by an interested party. However, if a claimant suspects that the will was executed under fraudulent or improper circumstances, they may raise this issue as well. A probate dispute lawyer in New Jersey might be able to help with claims of fraud, duress, or undue influence in the forming of a will or trust.
When Someone Dies Without a Will
There are many New Jersey residents that never get around to estate planning. If a decedent lacks a testamentary document at the time of passing, they are considered to have died intestate. When this occurs, a New Jersey probate court may apply its rules of intestate succession.
These rules might also apply even when there was a will. A spouse or child who was not mentioned in the will may petition the court for inclusion as an omitted spouse or child and accordingly may have rights to a portion of the estate. For more information, consult with a probate law firm in New Jersey.
Contact a New Jersey Probate Attorney Today
As much as you might prefer to reminisce about a loved one during your period of mourning, they may be some legal issues to worry about as well. A New Jersey probate lawyer could be your strongest ally during the administration of an estate. Call today to schedule an initial consultation about your probate needs.