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Phone: 201-345-3018

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Probate overview: distribution of estate assets

In our last post, we looked at an article which gave an overview of the first steps in the process of estate administration, specifically establishing the authenticity of an estate and appointing a legal representative. In this post we will look at a brief overview of the rest of the process.

The first step for the estate representative in this next phase of probate administration is to gather together all the assets in the estate. Some assets may be listed on a previously made estate inventory sheet and easy to access. Other may be more difficult to find. Once all the assets are gathered together, they should be placed into an account which will be used to pay the estate debts and taxes.

The next step is to paying off the debts and taxes of the estate. Under New Jersey law, when an estate is insolvent its creditors are paid in a specific order. The same general order will be used even when an estate in not insolvent. A personal representative is not generally responsible for debts of the decent, but personal liability may attach if creditors are not paid in the proper order or if beneficiaries receive their share promptly.

The following is the order in which assets are to paid:

1. Reasonable funeral expenses

2. Costs and expenses of estate administration

3. Debts and taxes, with priority given to services to the elderly

4. Expenses, including hospitalization, arising from decedent's final illness

5. Judgments against decedent according to priority of entry

6. Other claims against the estate

In our next post, we'll look at the final step of actually distributing estate assets.

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