A regular New Jersey probate should take less than one year to complete. “Regular” means a probate that goes smoothly and is straightforward. Even in the most straightforward of New Jersey probates, the process can take a long time because of the mandatory notices and timelines required under New Jersey law.
Many probates in New Jersey, however, will not be the straightforward type, and can take several years to complete.
Regular New Jersey Probate: Less Than One Year
A regular New Jersey probate can take less than one year. After the probate is opened, the executor or administrator will have to make sure that all creditors are satisfied.
A creditor has 9 months from the decedent’s death to make a claim in the estate. See Deadlines and Timelines in New Jersey Probate.
Upon proof that 9 months has elapsed after entry of an order to limit creditor, and if there are no unpaid or pending claims, the personal representative or executor can distribute the assets and obtain an order of discharge.
Therefore, if there is no litigation, no issue determining beneficiaries, and no significant creditor issues, a New Jersey probate can take less than one year.
Simplified New Jersey Probate: Weeks
If the decedent did not leave a will or a lot of valuable property, the testator’s family can use the simplified probate procedures available under New Jersey law.
This simplified probate in New Jersey is available if:
- The value of all of the real and personal assets of the estate left by the deceased person doesn’t exceed $20,000, and the surviving spouse or domestic partner is entitled to all of it without probate (NJ Rev Stat § 3B:10-3); or,
- There is no surviving spouse or domestic partner and the value of all of the assets doesn’t exceed $20,000. An heir, with the written consent of the other heirs, can file an affidavit with the court and receive all the assets. (NJ Rev Stat § 3B:10-4)
Messy Estates and Litigation: Two Or More Years
New Jersey probates do not always go smoothly, and can take a long time for a variety of reasons. If a decedent owned a business, had numerous creditors, or the beneficiaries of the estate have to be tracked down, then the estate will take longer to administer.
The most common reason that a New Jersey probate can take a long time is because of litigation.
If a will contest is started to challenge the validity of the decedent’s will, the probate can take several years. Litigation can occur for a host of other reasons. Perhaps the executor or administrator is accused of breaching his or her fiduciary duties – litigation over the alleged breaches can take over a year.
With a litigated estate, it is difficult to predict how long the probate will take. The answer depends on how many parties are involved and the issues litigated.