Losing a loved one is a tragic and often life-altering experience. When a parent dies, you lose a source of guidance and support. You also likely have some responsibility for handling their estate.
Whether you intended to share that workload with your siblings or formally accepted the role of executor from your parent before they died, you will have a lot of responsibilities in the upcoming months.
Estate administration is difficult, but it can also become exceptionally expensive if you have to ask the probate courts to oversee the administration of your parent’s estate. When is probate court necessary for an estate in New Jersey?
Most estates require probate oversight
New Jersey errs on the side of caution when it comes to probate requirements. There are only a few circumstances in which an executor doesn’t need to involve the probate courts in estate administration.
If your parent didn’t have much to leave as a legacy, their estate may qualify as a small estate that can go through expedited probate proceedings. This is only an option in cases with estates comprised of assets worth less than $20,000 or $10,000 that don’t have a last will and where there is only one beneficiary, usually a spouse or domestic partner.
All other estates with multiple beneficiaries, a written estate plan or larger total values will need to go through regular probate proceedings.
Trusts and beneficiary designations can protect assets from probate
While your loved one’s property and last will may require review by the probate courts, not every piece of property will necessarily be part of that process.
Your parent may have moved some property into a trust, which means that the trustee can transfer ownership without requiring probate involvement and approval first. Certain accounts, insurance benefits and even real estate could also have paperwork in place that allows it to transfer at the time of death to the ownership of someone else, thereby bypassing probate.
If your parent’s estate is valuable, if they left specific instructions or if there are multiple heirs, the probate courts will likely play a role in the estate administration process. Understanding the requirements for standard probate or expedited probate can help you plan the estate administration process a bit more easily.