A recent article on NJ.com explored the basic process of probate administration in New Jersey.
Firstly, if there are no assets that are titled in decedent's name alone, there is generally no need for probate. But a will needs to be probated if there are any assets titled in decedent's name, regardless of their total value.
The probate process will usually begin with a trip to your county Surrogate's office, which is a court equipped to deal with probate, estate administration, guardianships and trusteeships. Each county may have unique procedures, so it is best to check with your county Surrogate's office about procedural specifics.
If there is a will that has been left behind, probate will establish the authenticity of that will. An application for probate can be filed at any time, but probate of the will cannot take place until 10 days following the death of the testator (term for the deceased if they left a will behind).
In the solemn approach to probate, notice will need to be given to all potential beneficiaries and you will file an application for a hearing date. At the hearing, the court will consider evidence regarding the authenticity of the will. In the common approach to probate, which is how most wills are admitted, the person named as executor of the decedent's estate will go to Surrogate's office without need of giving notice to anybody.
In seeking to admit a will for probate, you will need to bring several items to your county Surrogate's office. Unless there are unique problems, estate administration is generally quite straightforward, but issues can arise with each item. The following is a list of what you will need:
•1. Certified death certificate. Make sure there are no other errors. If there are errors, delay can be reduced by having an attorney write up an affidavit of corrections.
•2. Notification to beneficiaries and immediate relatives. If names and addresses aren't known or can't be reasonably accessed, notice of probate will need to published in a local paper, stating the names of persons having a potential interest in estate.
•3. List of decedent's assets. Determine the overall value of the decedent's estate before going to the Surrogate's office so that the court can determine the number of short certificates needed to transfer ownership and whether any bond insurance may be required.
•4. Decedent's original will and one witness. Unless the decedent's will is self-proving, one witness to the original will must be present to execute what is called a witness proof showing. In order for a will to be considered self proving, there must be a signed, sworn, and notarized statement of the testator and witnesses, and this is usually attached to the will.
In our next post we will continue looking at the basic probate process.