The estates of New Jersey residents who die without a will must go through the probate process. Concerns about the cost and length of the probate process are common, and many people may also have concerns about what happens at probate hearings.
If you die without a will, a probate court must decide who gets your assets, and how any of your debts will be paid. Your assets are distributed to heirs in accordance with New Jersey probate laws.
Appointing a personal representative
There are typically two different probate hearings that are held. Although the court itself generally manages the entire probate process, at the first hearing a personal representative is appointed.
A personal representative is a person charged with carrying out various tasks. These may include distributing assets to heirs, making payments to any legitimate creditors and filing any required tax returns.
After the personal representative has completed their duties, a second hearing is held to provide proof to the court that they fulfilled all their responsibilities as personal representative. A judge reviews all documents and, if they conclude that all steps have been properly completed, the estate is closed, and the probate process ends.
Guiding you through the court process
The reality is that the probate process is usually not quick. The second hearing may be held up to a year after the first hearing, and sometimes even longer, if anything happened that caused issues or delays.
Going to court is something that makes many people nervous, no matter what the reason. If you recently lost a loved one or family member and find yourself involved in the probate process, going to court is likely the last thing you want to do while you are mourning your loss.
A probate litigation attorney can answer many of your questions, ease your concerns and potentially represent your interests at a court hearing.