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The Basics of Probate

Probate lawyer

Every state sets unique regulations in place that governs how an individual’s estate must be managed in the wake of their death. Some states are very “hands off” when it comes to estate management, provided that a valid will is in place and that there are no questions about its validity or contents. However, other states become much more directly involved as a matter of course in the ways in which an individual’s estate is validated, processed, and wrapped up. New Jersey is one such state.

Probate is the process of proving the contents of someone’s will or otherwise verifying the contents of their estate. Probate also involves estate administration and management, depending upon how each state both defines and handles this process. In many states, probate is only required under certain circumstances. Commonly, probate becomes necessary if a state beneficiaries contest how the estate should be managed or if a particularly complex estate requires judicial oversight. In New Jersey, virtually every estate is subjected to the probate process.

Simplified and Standard Processes

As an experienced Bergen County, NJ probate lawyer – including those who practice at Kaplan Law Practice, LLC– can confirm, there are two primary “routes” that may be taken when an individual’s assets are scrutinized as part of the probate process. While all probate cases are processed by county Surrogate Courts in New Jersey, estates that do not exceed a total value of $20,000 are eligible for a simplified probate process. All other estates that must be subjected to probate must proceed through a standardized process.

This standardized process is overseen by a so-called “personal representative” for the estate. This individual may be named in the deceased’s estate plan or they may be appointed by the court. Their duties include gathering the deceased’s assets that are to be distributed, settling bills and debts tied to the estate and distributing the deceased’s assets according to an estate plan or state law.

Avoiding Probate

If you want to spare your loved ones the stresses associated with the probate process, the best way to do so involves placing your assets in a revocable living trust. This arrangement will allow you to benefit from all the income that the trust generates during your lifetime but will also allow your beneficiaries to take immediate ownership of their named assets upon your death.

You will need to make special arrangements for real estate, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial holdings in order to ensure that they can bypass the probate process. If you die with any of these assets solely in your name and no named beneficiary attached to the account or asset, those assets will be subjected to the probate process.

If you are interested in avoiding the probate process, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you to construct your state in such a way that potentially every element of it can bypass the probate process once you are gone.

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