Probate and the current issues with the probate system

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Probate And The Current Issues With The Probate System

When it comes to the administration of an estate plan in New Jersey and elsewhere, individuals often believe that probate is something to avoid. While many will consider ways to avoid probate when drafting and updating an estate plan, the reality is that probate is not always avoidable. Moreover, probate is essentially not a bad thing to go through. Nonetheless, the probate system is not perfect and could be fixed to benefit many individuals throughout the nation.

Understanding probate

For the most part, when individuals think about probate, they view it as something to avoid. Therefore, many will consider this when drafting their estate plans. While it is possible to avoid probate, it is important to understand what probate is and how it serves individuals. In simple terms, the probate system determines the validity of a will. Once validity is established, the distribution of property to beneficiaries, as designated by the will, will be approved by the court.

Probate is not a negative process but rather one that provides oversight, checks and balances and is a mechanism to circumvent unethical situations. While it is viewed as an important process, there is also several issues with the probate system as it currently stands.

Issues with the probate system

An obvious problem with the probate process is that it takes far too long to complete, is often confusing to those in the process and the fact that not enough people are educated on the process and how to navigate it.

The length of time probate takes may be a reason why individuals seek to avoid it. In many cases, the process is taking much longer than it was designed to take. In some cases, it could take several years. This can be extremely difficult on families, especially those that could really benefit from the property to intend to inherit. The delay in inheritance could have negative financial impact on heirs, making it an even more challenging situation.

Improving the system, by increasing service providers and reducing mistakes on the individual level could help reduce the time it takes. Having more guidance on the process and gaining a better understanding on how best to navigate probate could also reduce the time it takes to complete it.

There is no perfect way to execute an estate plan or administrate an estate; however, there are ways to ensure an individual’s wishes are memorialized in an estate plan and is executed in this manner. Thus, when probate is signaled, it is important to understand how this should look like and what options and rights one has if an issue arises.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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