From Our “Ask a Question,” Mailbag: “I want to make things easy for my children. How Do You Avoid Probate in PA?”
Estate Planning Lawyer, Peter Klenk
How Do You Avoid Probate in NJ?
You can avoid probate by taking certain steps. But, these steps can affect how you enjoy your assets during your lifetime. Before you act, do you understand what you are trying to avoid? Many people say you should avoid probate, but sometimes these folks don’t even know what that word means.
First, understand probate. We don’t get to take “it” with us when we die. Land, bank accounts, furniture, and jewelry all stay behind. The rights to these assets pass to someone else. But to whom?
Probate is the process where the state oversees that the deceased person’s assets end up in the right hands. That could be a creditor, like the IRS, or a reverse mortgage company. It could also be a friend or a charity. Probate, in its most simple form, is the process where the state helps make sure the right people get your things.
New Jersey Probate.
The New Jersey probate process starts with the Surrogate. Each county has a Surrogate. This is an elected position. When a person dies, the executor takes the Will and death certificate to the Surrogate. The 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 NJ?
If you wish to avoid the process of using the Surrogate and putting your will into the county system, you have several options.
- Jointly holding assets. During your lifetime, you could put another person as a co-owner on your real estate or bank accounts. Then, at your death, the co-owner can claim your share. This avoids probate. But, during your lifetime, someone else is a co-owner of your asset. If the co-owner is sued or gets divorced, your assets could be dragged into their mess.
- Naming Beneficiaries. Another method is to name a person (or charity, etc.) as the asset’s beneficiary. This is a typical method for Life Insurance and IRAs. It means that at your death, this person can claim the asset simply by presenting your death certificate. Some assets, such as land, don’t have a beneficiary option. Further, by naming a person directly as a beneficiary, you don’t provide them any protection from divorce or creditors. If at your death they are in bankruptcy, your asset goes directly to their creditors.
- Using a Revocable or “Living” Trust. This option gives you control over your assets during your lifetime and allows you to set up protective trusts for your loved ones after your death. Most people like the idea that their heirs can access assets when needed but can’t lose them in a divorce or a creditor. A Revocable Trust is also a useful tool when you are older and need help managing your assets. Your child or trusted friend can help you, but you still keep ultimate control.
Would you like more detail? Follow this link to my article, Revocable Living Trusts: Everything You Need to Know.
In Conclusion: How Do You Avoid Probate in NJ?
I hope you found helpful this short article responding to How Do You Avoid Probate in NJ. 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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