The Probate Process in New Jersey
Probate is the process whereby a Last Will and Testament is proved to be valid under New Jersey law by an elected County Surrogate, who has the authority to determine the authenticity of such a document. It also involves appointing an individual for an Estate when someone dies without a Will (intestacy).
Probate is done when someone dies with assets in their name alone. The individual named in the Will as the Executor (male) or Executrix (female) would come to the office of the Surrogate with the original Will and a certified copy of the death certificate. A certified copy of the death certificate caries an official seal on the document.
Application is made to the Surrogate of the County where the decedent resided or was domiciled at the time of their death. If the Will is self-proving (language added to the Will that allows the document to prove itself), no further proof or testimony will be necessary to probate the Will.
If the Will is not self-proving, a proof from one of the witnesses is necessary to complete the probate.
Certain qualification forms would need to be signed by the personal representative. No probate can be completed until the day following the tenth (10th) day after death. Fees will be charged as set forth by the New Jersey statute. The probate application is a relatively quick, simple and inexpensive process.
If someone dies without a Will, an individual can make application to be appointed as Administrator/rix (also hereinafter referred to as the personal representative) to represent the Estate.
After signing qualification papers, the Administrator/rix would need to post a surety bond that represents the full value of the Estate and file renunciations from any individual that has a prior or equal right to be appointed.
The Surrogate, as part of the process, will issue letters and certificates evidencing the appointment of the individual to the Estate which will allow them to access and transfer assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.
Once the probate is complete, the personal representative of the Estate has sixty (60) days in which to notify the heirs at law, next of kin and beneficiaries that application was made for probate.