Estate Administration: Probate is the first Step When there is a Will

A Last Will and Testament designates an Executor who has legal authority to handle the estate assets. The Will also specifies who receives what, and in what way; the language of the Will specifies if the share is to be put in a Trust or is to pass outright, and who will receive the share if the named beneficiary has died. If assets are jointly owned or if they have named beneficiaries, they are handled differently and usually they are not controlled by what the Will says, although individual cases may have legal nuances that differ.

When a person passes away with a Will, the first step is to present that Will to be probated at the County Surrogate. In New Jersey, probate is a quick and easy process, although right now it is more cumbersome due to the COVID-19 procedures. Call your County Surrogate for their specific drop-off procedures. Generally, the named Executor has to send in the original Will, an original death certificate, and some payment. Once the executor is appointed, s/he has legal authority to handle the estate’s assets.

The next steps involve obtaining an EIN# from the IRS (because an estate is an independent entity); setting up an Estate checking account; collecting the bills; dealing with personal property; identifying all of the assets and determining whether any of them have a named beneficiary or co-owner; making decisions about liquidations of assets; and dealing with real estate (to name a few). There will often be a need to file the final income tax returns as well.

Many unusual issues pop up in estates, and getting early legal advice can help the Executor avoid some of the pitfalls and quicksand that create greater problems later.

Call for consultation about estate administration……  732-382-6070

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