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Estate Planning FAQ 2

What is probate and how much time and money does it cost?

Probate is a legal procedure for the appointment of someone to administer a deceased person’s assets and debts. The assets are assembled, debts are determined and paid and the net of these two items is distributed to the person’s heirs. Probate is state specific and generally applies to a person’s assets and liabilities within a given state, meaning that in some cases, particularly where an individual owned real estate in more than one state (for example, a principal residence in New Jersey and a vacation home in another state) probate procedures may be required in multiple jurisdictions. Probate in New Jersey is handled smoothly and hassle free if the deceased person had a properly drafted Will. A person dying with a Will is said to die Testate. Most people have all heard of a Last Will and Testament. The word Testament is actually another word for Will. Where a person dies with a Will he or she would have named someone in the Will to act as Executor. A person who dies without a Will is said to die intestate. In that case the person’s estate will be handled by a court appointed administrator. Probate is administered in the probate court or surrogate court in the county where the deceased last resided. Probate in New Jersey is generally an informal procedure, and it starts with an application rather than a formal in-court complaint or petition. The person named as Executor usually files the application, often but not always through his or her attorney. Probate applications can be filed at any time 10 or more days after the date of death. Fees generally are $250 or less, depending upon the number of pages in the Will, whether a trust is included and the number of court certificates the family orders. The process includes submitting the original Will to the probate court for review to make sure it is written following legal requirements, is properly signed, witnessed and acknowledged by a notary. Provided that there are no questions or problems with the document it will be admitted to probate and the Executor will be appointed. In New Jersey the time for completion of the probate process varies from county to county – barring unusual circumstances certificates confirming the acceptance of the Will and appointment of the Executor or, if no Will, appointment of the Administrator, will be issued not more than 10 days to 2 weeks after the filing of the probate application (in some counties certificates are issued on the same day).

In New Jersey the probate process is quick, relatively painless and inexpensive. In some states, however, probate can be costly and time consuming, so much so that people residing in those states or having assets which may become subject to the probate rules in more than one state will arrange their affairs to avoid it, including having a type of trust specifically designed to keep assets out of the jurisdiction of the probate courts. We would be pleased to discuss with our clients whether such a trust might be appropriate for their specific situations.

Call (732)-972-1600 today to speak to one of our skilled Estate Planning Attorneys. Located in Manalapan (Monmouth County, NJ), Cranford (Union County, NJ) and Midtown Manhattan (New York, NY); Drescher & Cheslow represents clients throughout the State of New Jersey & New York including but not limited to Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Essex, Somerset, Morris, Hudson and Ocean counties.

Ten Frequently Asked Estate Planning Questions
First: What happens if someone dies without a Will?
Second: What is probate and how much time and money does it cost?
Third: What are the different ways property can be owned and what problems can these different forms of ownership create?
Fourth: Must a parent treat all children equally?
Fifth: How should property be left for someone unable to manage it?
Sixth: Who should be named Executor or Trustee?
Seventh: What about taxes?
Eighth: What about lifetime gifts?
Ninth: How can clients safeguard their affairs in the face of physical or mental infirmity?
Tenth: How are health care decisions to be made if a person becomes unable to express his or her wishes?


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