In New Jersey, probate is a legal process intended to distribute a person’s property after their death. While probate is not always required in New Jersey, it is generally required if the decedent owned assets in their own name. Non-probate assets can typically skip the probate process and will automatically be transferred to the new owner. For example, if the decedent owned property as a joint tenant with a right of survivorship, the property will transfer automatically to the surviving owner.
First, the Surrogate Court will distribute the Letters of Testamentary or Administration (for executors or administrators, respectively) and a person will be appointed to handle the decedent’s estate. If the decedent did not name a personal representative in their will, the court will appoint one. This representative will be responsible for paying off any debts and distributing the decedent’s assets.
If the decedent had a valid will in place at the time of their death, the decedent’s assets will be distributed in accordance with that will. If the decedent did not have a will, and their assets are valued at $20,000 or less, and their only beneficiary is a surviving spouse/domestic partner, or the assets are valued at $10,000 or less and there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, the decedent’s estate may be eligible for expedited probate proceedings. In all other cases, the decedent’s estate will go through the regular probate process.
The probate process can be difficult to understanding, and every situation is different. An experienced probate attorney in the New Jersey area can help you navigate the process.