111 Northfield Avenue,  Suite 202 | West Orange , New Jersey 07052

New Jersey Probate Faq

Frequently Asked Questions About New Jersey Probate Law

As a New Jersey probate attorney, I have more than 25 years of experience guiding clients through this process. I have the knowledge required to handle your matter efficiently. I understand that the passing of a loved one is an emotionally trying time, for both you and your family. My main priority is keeping you informed and involved throughout the process, and making the experience as streamlined and stress-free as possible. Please call 973-380-0997 or contact Alice Beirne online to schedule a free initial consultation.

What is probate?
Probate is the legal process of administering an estate after someone dies. In this way, your property passes directly to your beneficiaries. Probate includes the following:

  • Proving in court that the will of the deceased individual is valid
  • Identifying and inventorying the property of the deceased person
  • Property appraisal
  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Distributing property as directed by a will
  • Transferring title and ownership of assets to the proper beneficiaries

Do I need a will?
A will protects your property and can especially be helpful if you want to leave property to people other than your relatives. Without a will, New Jersey law dictates the distribution of your property. The default plan normally distributes property to relatives.

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Is it necessary for a New Jersey probate attorney to draft my will?
While it may seem straightforward for you to draft your will yourself, it is all too easy to make mistakes that invalidate the will under state law. A New Jersey probate lawyer familiar with specific state laws can legally draft a will that is valid and adheres to your wishes.

What happens if someone dies without a will?
When a person dies without a will, New Jersey law determines how and to whom the assets of the deceased person are distributed. Typically, the spouse and children of the person who died take the property. If there is no spouse and no children, the parents of the decedent receive the property, followed by siblings, grandparents, and children of the grandparents. If no close relation can be found, the property eventually belongs to the state. Note, though, that as part of the probate process, creditors of the decedent lay claim to the property after certain allowances for spouse and children.

What is a trust?
In a trust, a party known as the trustee has legal ownership of property transferred to him or her by the person making the trust (the grantor). Trust assets are invested and managed for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. A trust can be a living trust; that is, established during the lifetime of the grantor, or a testamentary trust, established in a will. A trustee can be either an individual or an institution, such as a bank.

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Can you contest a will or trust?
Yes, when the person who wrote the will or trust was forced, deceived, mentally incompetent, or duly influenced. Experienced New Jersey probate lawyers can offer legal advice as to how to challenge a will or trust.

What are the duties and obligation of an executor or personal representative?
The executor or personal representative follows New Jersey law to conclude the affairs of the decedent, including the following:

  • Gathering and liquidating assets
  • Accessing bank accounts and retirement savings
  • Re-titling assets
  • Conveying real estate
  • Paying final debts
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs
  • Identifying and locating heirs when necessary
  • Filing all required tax returns, including income and estate tax returns
  • Final inventory and accounting

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What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the accumulation and disposition of an estate, typically to minimize taxes and maximize the transfer of wealth to the intended beneficiaries. Estate planning tools include the will, trust, power of appointment, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will.

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