Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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How Do You Probate a Will In New Jersey?

The probate of a will under New Jersey law is required when a decedent dies a resident of New Jersey, or owning property in New Jersey, and has assets that must go through probate.

Locate the Decedent’s Will

The first step to probate a will in New Jersey is to locate the decedent’s will.  Under New Jersey law, you generally need to have the original will in order to file it for probate with the County Surrogate.  Read How To Find Out If Someone Has a Will.  If you cannot find the original will, you can seek to admit a copy of the will to probate.  Read Can You Probate a Lost Will In New Jersey?

Opening the New Jersey Estate

After the will is located, someone must apply for the probate of the will in the Surrogate’s Court and for the appointment of the executor.  The application for probate of the will must be accompanied by a death certificate or other proof of death.  The application for probate is filed with the Surrogate’s Court of the New Jersey County in which the decedent was domiciled at death.  If the decedent was not a New Jersey resident, then the application is filed in the county in which decedent left any property.

The person named as the executor in the will has first priority to serve as the executor of the New Jersey estate.  If they do not want to serve or are not qualified to serve, then the nominated successor can serve if willing and qualified to do so.

Give The Required Notice Under New Jersey Law Of Probate Of Will

New Jersey law requires that notice of the probate is given to the decedent’s surviving spouse, beneficiaries, and next of kin that a will has been probated.  See New Jersey Rules of Court Rule 4:80-6.

The notice must be provided within 60 days from the date of probate.  See other Deadlines and Timelines In New Jersey Probate.  The Notice of Probate and the proof of mailing must be provided to the Surrogate’s Office in the New Jersey County where probate is opened.

Gather and Inventory Assets Of the Decedent

After getting the will admitted to probate and notifying the people entitled to receive notice of the probate of the will under New Jersey law, the executor must gather assets of the decedent.

Marshalling the assets might include contacting banks, securing property, opening an estate account, and locating any other assets that might properly be part of the New Jersey estate.  This can be done by reviewing decedent’s mail, or gaining access to decedent’s digital life in order to locate decedent’s financial accounts.

Deal With Creditors, Disputes, and Anything Else

One of the most important jobs of a New Jersey executor is notifying the creditors of the estate and handling any creditor claims.  See Guide to Creditor Claims In New Jersey Estates for an overview of the creditor process.

The executor must also deal with any disputes that arise.  Disputes may concern the validity of the will, the actual administration of the New Jersey probate, disputes by or between beneficiaries, surviving spouse rights, or anything else someone can think about to fight over.

A New Jersey Executor must also file a final New Jersey and federal tax returns (if necessary) for the decedent.  A federal tax return is only required if the taxable estate is over $12.06 million (for deaths in 2022).

The executor must make sure that all disputes and creditors are dealt with and addressed before the estate can be distributed and the executor discharged.

Distribution and Discharge

Once the probate of the New Jersey will and administration of the Estate has been fully completed, the executor can make distributions and petition for discharge.  Before the probate can be closed, the New Jersey executor will submit an accounting, showing the assets of the estate, disbursements from the estate, and proposed distributions.  The beneficiaries of the New Jersey estate can approve the accounting without the need for court oversight and formal approval.

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