What is Probate?

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process by which decedent’s estate is transferred to his/her heirs or beneficiaries.  If the deceased person created a will, then the person is said to have died testate.  When this is the case the probate court determines the validity of the Will.  There may have been multiple Wills created (for various reasons) and the courts job is to determine which is the legal one to use according to law.  The court will also hear any objections to the Will, makes sure the creditors are paid and assures that the property remaining is distributed according to the terms and conditions of the will.

The Will names the person (or sometimes the institution) that will carry out the wishes of the deceased.  This person is call the Executor.  The executor is in charge of the probate process and is accountable to the beneficiaries and must perform their duties in a legal and fair manner.  It is possible for the court to appoint a new administrator if it feels the executor is not capable.  The Executor or administrator is entitled to a fee or commission for doing the work.

A person who dies intestate, has passed on without leaving a will.  In this case the court will appoint an administrator to handle the estate.  The administrator will then distribute the estate according to state law.  This, however only happens once all debts, taxes and administration costs have been paid.

In the state of New Jersey all probate cases go through the county’s, in which the decedent died, Surrogate court.  The Surrogate court will distribute the required legal documents called either Letters of Testamentary for an executor or Letters of Administration for the administrator.

New Jersey Probate is the number one place for finding out about probate and estate planning.  Feel free to read all the articles on this site for free.

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