New Jersey Probate FAQs

Dec 4, 2019 | Probate

When is the right time to begin estate planning in New Jersey?

Everyone dies. However not everyone is prepared to die.  And even if someone is mentally prepared to die, it does not mean that his or her estate is in good shape to provide the benefits or protect the assets of the decedent.  Life ends for everyone, and preparing for that end is available to everyone in NJ even those that want to avoid attorneys.  We recommend hiring a professional to help draft a will.

Any elder law attorney will tell you that estate planning is more than just preparing a will.  But before we bog you down with all of the things covered by estate planning, let’s focus on baby steps and cover why having a will makes sense and is a good place to start.

This comes down to procrastination in that people can become overwhelmed when facing the prospect of their future demise.  People in all walks of life tend to think that if they don’t plan for death, they just might live forever. Almost 60% of American adults have no will, no trust, and no estate plan at all, according to a recent study by This is where you can take your first step to be better than 60% of America so that you can provide your family with a clear plan as to what your assets are, what your last wishes are, whether you have insurance policies, trusts, and that in general you were thinking of your family in the event of your death in that you wanted it to be as easy as possible for your loved ones.

If you die in NJ and have no will, the state of New Jersey has a plan for you, your assets and who gets them.  It is called dying “intestate.” With intestacy, your assets go to those the state of New Jersey has pre-determined. These people will most likely be your closest living relatives. These people may or may not be the people whom you love and who love you.  If you have had someone helping you for the past 30 years as a house keeper, and a live in support person.  They are entitled to nothing if you die without a will. A long lost Brother could show up out of nowhere and say they are entitled to everything you owned.

Now imagine you have been married before, have children from a different person than you are with now, they have children too from a previous marriage, and you have charities you would like to donate to when you pass. This may sound complicated. However with a NJ Probate Attorney by your side, it becomes easier as we will guide you step by step through the process.  Discuss all of your options, and get to understand your needs and what you are trying to accomplish when you die.

Can I prepare a will myself in New Jersey?

The short answer is yes you can, however if done incorrectly it can cost your heirs dearly in the long run.

As an example, we recently had a client whose mother died before she did.  And, then her grandmother passed away.  Fortunately, the grandmother had a will. Unfortunately, the will was not prepared by a Probate Attorney.

The will directed that the Uncle of our client get $1 dollar.  And that her Mother get everything else and act as the executor for the estate.  Leaving a dollar to someone sounds like a good way to stick it to someone in a will, however, its better to say the person and all of their lineage should be treated as they predeceased the person making out the will.

Instead of just giving them a dollar, you are now literally saying to have them be treated like they are already dead.  It is one last way to tell someone that they are dead to you.  It also helps avoid having to get a refund and release bond for the $1.  And, avoids the traps that our client fell into.

The uncle of our client tried to take over as the executor.  He then started taking the rent for the home his mother had lived in, didn’t pay the taxes, and tried to sell it out from under the rightful heirs.

We were able to assist our client in getting her named as the Executor for the estate, avoid the tax lien foreclosure, and sell the property for more than the house was worth all the while helping here find a new place to move.  (When you have two pit bulls this can be difficult on its own.) We also had to deal with negotiating with a Oil Tank removal company to re-mediate the oil tank and wait to get paid until closing as our client did not have the money or know how to negotiate with an oil tank removal company.

Having a New Jersey Probate attorney that understands more than probate in a probate situation can lead to many happy outcomes. Basically, having a Probate Attorney that works with a Real Estate Attorney, who works with a Bankruptcy Attorney who knows how to stop a foreclosure who works with a foreclosure defense attorney was needed in this matter to ensure that our client was able to salvage the estate after her Uncle tried to run away with it.

Is Estate Planning in New Jersey difficult?

Estate planning in Jersey can seem difficult if you have never done it before, or you do not know where to start. If you are trying to create a Trust from Scratch and learn what needs to be done to validly execute the will, it may be cheaper and easier to contact a probate attorney than spend the next 3 years learning how to become a probate attorney.

The documents that are created with a New Jersey Probate attorney may last you a life time, or need to be updated the next time a new tax law is created.  Talking with a professional estate planner can give you the benefits of a life time of updates by an attorney with personal knowledge of your property, business, financial, tax, and family information.  It is better to have an expert to ask questions, than trying to become the expert when your time is limited.

Creating a will can be done online for free.  However, the software used to create these wills is not always state specific or well written.  Not even every free online software, can create a pet trust, or allow for complex blended family distribution of assets. And, does the software know that having an Executor that is a beneficiary witnessing your will is not a good idea?

Ask any elder law attorney and they will recommend using an elder law attorney for estate planning.  Because you can pay them a little know to help prepare your will and estate, or you can pay them a lot after you pass to stop your relatives from fighting over your estate. And, imaging trying to cut your spouse of a will… What do you think would happen?

Can I avoid probate in New Jersey when I die?

If you are trying to keep your estate private and avoid probate, we can help set-up a trust for you. A trust allow the bulk of your estate to pass without going though probate.

It makes sense to take control of your legacy and ensure that your loved ones’ inheritances are what you want to give them. The New Jersey state intestacy statute is a law one-size-fits-all solution. It doesn’t take into consideration that one child may be incredibly rich and even estranged while another child may have cared for the decedent around the clock for the last 10 years living in Jersey while the other child was traveling the globe. You can take control of your own estate plan. A will overrides state intestacy statutes and provides your own specific instructions in the probate process.

A trust avoids the probate process altogether. Not only does it distribute assets to whom and how you want, it provides privacy which isn’t possible in the NJ probate process. Keeping your New Jersey Estate out of the public’s eye may be one of your goals. You can easily have the documents you need drafted to distribute your property the way you want, protect your privacy, handle your future business and personal financial affairs after you pass. Ensure that your heirs pay the least amount of taxes.

You can start your Jersey Estate Planning today with little effort.  New Jersey Estate Planning helps you care for your family once you are gone.  You shouldn’t leave this up to the members of your family or professionals at your job to figure out what happens when you pass. Engaging a Elder Care law firm that handles estate planning that can help with your young children’s future education or your elderly parents long term needs including administration and other unseen events can help you form a special plan for them.  You shouldn’t be offering them a menu of choices to guess at what form of burial you wanted or what special services you wanted.  What associations did you want to donate to when you passed? Do you owe estate taxes? Who owns your digital assets when you die, like your facebook groups, and linkedin information? Is there a directory of people that you want notified when you pass? Who gets what as a special inheritance? Where are all of your assets? Planning estate issues may seem like answering a lot of questions, but knowing what questions to ask can be half the battle.  Not to mention having an attorney to help your executor file your last federal tax return, pay off your bills, and ensure the beneficiaries get their individual bequests. You may be in great health enjoying a great employment with tons of life insurance for your family, so wouldn’t know be the perfect time to prepare a will including all the details you want?

If you have any questions, or need help. Please feel free to reach out. Call us at 973-200-1111 or email us at, We value our client’s privacy.

Disclaimer: We are a member of NJ and NY local and State bare associations.  This is not to be considered legal advice. Our office is full of attorneys that can explain estates, estate tax, gift tax, public asset searches, transferring property, individuals protection for investments, and so on.  However just because we have attorneys that provide leadership in the community, appear in current news stories and represent people in state court, we are not your attorney until you sign a retainer with us.  From Northern New Jersey to South Jersey we represent clients and their  families. We are here to serve, but we are not likely to help you administer an estate until we have met with you and executed a retainer.

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