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How do you avoid probate in New Jersey?

Posted on Tue Feb 16, 2021, on Probate and Estate Administration

From Our “Ask a Question,” Mailbag: “My son lives out of state, so I want to make handing my estate easier for him. How do you avoid probate in New Jersey?”

How do you avoid probate in New Jersey

Estate Planning Lawyer, Peter Klenk

How do you avoid probate in New Jersey?

First, let’s make sure you know what you are trying to avoid.  Each state has a probate process. In some states, such as California, New York, and Florida, probate is a slow, expensive process.  In other states, such as New Jersey, the process is much easier.  One of the issues we would discuss with you is if avoiding probate is even needed. Your out-of-state son can manage our estate fairly easily using the New Jersey probate process.

What is probate? When you die, you don’t get to take “it” with you. Your house, bank accounts, jewelry, and even pets, all pass to someone else. Probate is the process where New Jersey makes sure your things end up in the right hands. That could be a creditor. It could also be a spouse or child. Probate, in its most simple form, is the process where interested people get to make sure the right person(s) receive the estate funds.

New Jersey Probate.

The New Jersey probate process starts with the Surrogate. Each county has a Surrogate. My experience is that surrogates are friendly, helpful people. When a person dies, the executor takes the Will and death certificate to the Surrogate. The county Surrogate’s job is to review these documents and then give the Executor paperwork recognizing him or her as the estate’s executor.

How do you avoid probate in New Jersey?

If you wish to avoid the process of registering the will and avoid probate, you have several options.

  1. Holding assets Jointly. During your lifetime, you could put your son as a co-owner on your real estate or bank accounts. Then, at your death, your son can claim your share. This avoids probate. But, during your lifetime, your son is a co-owner of your asset. Many people don’t care to “share” their property during their lifetime. Plus, should your son get divorced or have creditor problems, your asset might be compromised.
  2. Naming Your Son as a Beneficiary. Another method is to name your son as the beneficiary of your asset. This is a typical method for Life Insurance and IRAs. Some assets, such as land, don’t have a beneficiary option. Further, by naming your son directly as a beneficiary, you don’t provide him any protection from divorce or creditors. If you wish to help him keep his money separate from your daughter-in-law, you need to use a different method.
  3. Creating a Revocable Living Trust. This option gives you lifetime control over your assets and allows you to create a protective trust for your son. At your death, the Revocable Trust can become an Irrevocable Trust for his benefit. This shelters his inheritance from divorce and creditors. Furthermore, it can help make sure your money ends up with your grandchildren if your son doesn’t spend it.

Would you like more details about Revocable Living Trusts? Follow this link to my article, Revocable Living Trusts: Everything You Need to Know.

In Conclusion: How do you avoid probate in New Jersey?

I hope you found helpful this short article responding to How do you avoid probate in New Jersey.  I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you would like to know more, or have an estate that needs our help, contact us.  Let our Probate and Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. 

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