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Beneficiaries under will have ways to enforce decedent's wishes, P.2

In our last post, we began discussing the difference between probate and non-probate property in the context of a discussion of what a beneficiary may do when they have not yet received their inheritance under a will. We continue that discussion here.

Probate property is property that is titled in the deceased person own name. That property includes bank accounts, real estate, stock and bonds, as well as personal property. Probate property can only be transferred or sold after a personal representative, sometimes called an executor, has been appointed. And before the personal representative is appointed, the will needs to be probated by a probate court. After that, the personal representative can be officially appointed and he or she can collect, sell, and transfer the deceased person's property. Sometimes the process can be hampered when there are will contests or other issues to be dealt with in the probate process.

After the will has been probated, New Jersey law requires that each beneficiary named in the will and all "heirs at law," those who inherit by statutory right, be provided a copy of the will if they want one.

The process of administering the estate must be performed meticulously, according to the instructions provided in the deceased person's will. Issues can arise when the executor refuses to cooperate with the administration process or if something else goes wrong.

If the will is not probated by the appointed personal representative, beneficiaries have the right to request that the court appoint someone else as executor. If a beneficiary disputes the way the deceased person's estate is being administered, but does not have a copy of the will, the beneficiary can request that the court order the named executor to produce the original will or a copy. Whatever the case may be, the beneficiary must work with the court to ensure that the deceased person's wishes as expressed in his or her will are carried out properly.

The probate process is not always a simple, straightforward process. Sometimes difficulties can arise. Beneficiaries do have means, though, to ensure that the deceased person's wishes, as expressed in their will, are carried out.

Source: Star Ledger, "After sister's death, questions about will, inheritance," Karin Price Mueller, 23 May 2011.

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