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How long does New Jersey probate take?

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Probate is a legal process wherein a court oversees the settlement of an estate after the owner passes.
December 2, 2021 ★  | |

A common question that we are asked is, "How long does probate take?". In this article, we'll explore what probate is and how long the process typically takes. We'll also provide some tips for how to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of settling an estate after someone dies. This typically includes distributing the deceased person's assets, paying any debts and taxes, and resolving any claims against the estate.

Probate court and the probate hearing

During probate, a judge determines the way in which to distribute assets to heirs. During the probate hearing, the probate court judge will also authenticate the will (if there is one) and appoint an executor of estate to supervise the probate process. Probate procedures depend to a large part on the state the decedent lived in and the type of estate he or she had.

After authenticating the decedent’s will and appointing an executor, the executor locates and assesses all the property owned by the deceased. If there are any debts, the executor uses estate assets to pay these. The remaining estate is then distributed to the heirs.

So, how long does probate take?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the estate, the state in which probate takes place, and whether or not the deceased left a will.

If the estate is small and there is no will, probate may be completed in a matter of weeks. However, if the estate is large and complex, or if there is a dispute over the will, probate can take months or even years to complete.

Factors that determine how long the probate process takes

Estate assets

An estate’s size contributes significantly to the time in probate. Most states use the total value of the estate to determine its size. This depends on state laws and the type of assets included in the estate. Many states now have a small estate probate process, and some waive it altogether for low-value properties. The state may have a small estate limit of a certain dollar amount. The executor or beneficiaries can complete a Small Estate Claim Form or an Affidavit for Transfer of Personal Property to avoid probate for estates below that value.

The type of assets in an estate also play a role in how long probate takes. The more complex the assets, the longer it may take to probate an estate. For example, if the estate includes real estate or a business, it may take longer to probate than if the only asset is a bank account.

State laws

State probate laws also play a role in how long the probate process takes. Probate may be quicker in some states than others. For example, California has a “summary” probate process that can be completed in as little as four months. Other states, such as Florida, have more lengthy and complicated probate procedures that can take a year or longer.

The presence of a will

If the deceased person left a will, probate may be quicker than if there is no will. This is because the executor named in the will can begin gathering assets and distributing them to heirs right away.

If a person dies without a will, it means that there’s no guidance from the decedent. As a result, the court and executor have to work through the estate and distribution from scratch.

Multiple beneficiaries

If an estate has a number of heirs, it may gum up the works. Multiple beneficiaries can slow down the probate proceedings because disputes can drag out an otherwise smooth legal process. Disagreements among family members or other heirs can result in delays or even a total halt.

Debts and creditor claims

Taxes and debts are major factors in the time needed to close an estate. Creditors must be paid before the beneficiaries can receive anything. When a person dies, his or her creditors must receive formal notice. They have a deadline to make a claim for money the estate owed. The longer the claims period, the longer the delay in the probate process.

Estate taxes

Taxes on an estate also can take a while to process. The estate must receive a closing letter from the IRS for the federal estate tax, and the state taxing authority to close out the probate process. Estate taxes can take months, or even a year or more to process.

How to speed up probate

While the probate process can be lengthy, there are a few things that can be done to speed it up:

  • Choose the right executor: The executor is the person responsible for handling the estate. This includes gathering assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. An executor who is organized and efficient can help the probate process go more smoothly.
  • Hire an experienced probate attorney: A probate attorney can help the executor navigate the probate process and avoid common mistakes.
  • Get a jump on collecting assets: The sooner the executor begins gathering assets, the sooner the estate can be settled.
  • Pay debts and taxes promptly: Creditors and the IRS must be paid in a timely manner to avoid delays in the probate process.
  • Keep beneficiaries informed: Beneficiaries have a right to know what is going on with the estate. Keeping them updated can help avoid disputes and delays.

How to avoid probate in New Jersey

Make a living trust

A living trust is an arrangement where you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee. The trustee manages the assets for your benefit during your lifetime. When you die, the trustee transfers ownership of the assets to your beneficiaries without probate.

Name a beneficiary

Many assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, can be transferred to a Beneficiary outside of probate.

Give gifts

You can give away up to $15,000 per year to each person without triggering gift taxes. This is a way to transfer ownership of assets during your lifetime.

Probate can be a long and complicated process, but there are ways to avoid it or speed it up. Talk to an experienced New Jersey probate attorney to learn more about how to handle the probate process.

What is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Administration

When a person dies, their assets need to be sorted and distributed through a legal process called probate. Probate is different from estate administration, which refers to the management of said property during this time.

  • Probate: a court process to confirm that an estate is settled and all property is distributed to beneficiaries.
  • Estate Administration: the named individual responsible for overseeing the settlement of the estate, including accounting for assets, distributing assets and paying debts/taxes on behalf of the deceased.

If the deceased created a will, the probate process may be easier – particularly if they appointed someone they knew to handle their estate. If there is no will (which happens when somebody dies intestate), the courts will assign an administrator/executor and that person becomes responsible for settling the estate.

If there are any challenges to the will or who gets the estate, it may gum up the probate process for the administrator. It could even get ugly, with family fighting and lawsuits being filed. If you're feeling overwhelmed as an administrator, a probate lawyer can help take some of the burden off your shoulders.

Do you need to hire a probate lawyer?

Many people choose to hire an attorney to help with the entire probate process. An attorney can help you navigate the legal system, avoid mistakes, and speed up the process.

If you are the executor of an estate, you may need to hire a probate lawyer if:

  • The estate is complex
  • The deceased left no will or the will is contested
  • You are named as a beneficiary in the will
  • You are an heir of the deceased (and there is no will)
  • You are involved in a family dispute over the estate
  • You need help understanding your rights and responsibilities

If you live in New Jersey or New York, the Law Firm of Benjamin Eckman can help you will all of your estate planning needs.

Click here to book your initial consultation.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of settling an estate after someone dies. This typically includes distributing the deceased person's assets, paying any debts and taxes, and resolving any claims against the estate.

Probate court and the probate hearing

During probate, a judge determines the way in which to distribute assets to heirs. During the probate hearing, the probate court judge will also authenticate the will (if there is one) and appoint an executor of estate to supervise the probate process. Probate procedures depend to a large part on the state the decedent lived in and the type of estate he or she had.

After authenticating the decedent’s will and appointing an executor, the executor locates and assesses all the property owned by the deceased. If there are any debts, the executor uses estate assets to pay these. The remaining estate is then distributed to the heirs.

So, how long does probate take?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the estate, the state in which probate takes place, and whether or not the deceased left a will.

If the estate is small and there is no will, probate may be completed in a matter of weeks. However, if the estate is large and complex, or if there is a dispute over the will, probate can take months or even years to complete.

Factors that determine how long the probate process takes

Estate assets

An estate’s size contributes significantly to the time in probate. Most states use the total value of the estate to determine its size. This depends on state laws and the type of assets included in the estate. Many states now have a small estate probate process, and some waive it altogether for low-value properties. The state may have a small estate limit of a certain dollar amount. The executor or beneficiaries can complete a Small Estate Claim Form or an Affidavit for Transfer of Personal Property to avoid probate for estates below that value.

The type of assets in an estate also play a role in how long probate takes. The more complex the assets, the longer it may take to probate an estate. For example, if the estate includes real estate or a business, it may take longer to probate than if the only asset is a bank account.

State laws

State probate laws also play a role in how long the probate process takes. Probate may be quicker in some states than others. For example, California has a “summary” probate process that can be completed in as little as four months. Other states, such as Florida, have more lengthy and complicated probate procedures that can take a year or longer.

The presence of a will

If the deceased person left a will, probate may be quicker than if there is no will. This is because the executor named in the will can begin gathering assets and distributing them to heirs right away.

If a person dies without a will, it means that there’s no guidance from the decedent. As a result, the court and executor have to work through the estate and distribution from scratch.

Multiple beneficiaries

If an estate has a number of heirs, it may gum up the works. Multiple beneficiaries can slow down the probate proceedings because disputes can drag out an otherwise smooth legal process. Disagreements among family members or other heirs can result in delays or even a total halt.

Debts and creditor claims

Taxes and debts are major factors in the time needed to close an estate. Creditors must be paid before the beneficiaries can receive anything. When a person dies, his or her creditors must receive formal notice. They have a deadline to make a claim for money the estate owed. The longer the claims period, the longer the delay in the probate process.

Estate taxes

Taxes on an estate also can take a while to process. The estate must receive a closing letter from the IRS for the federal estate tax, and the state taxing authority to close out the probate process. Estate taxes can take months, or even a year or more to process.

How to speed up probate

While the probate process can be lengthy, there are a few things that can be done to speed it up:

  • Choose the right executor: The executor is the person responsible for handling the estate. This includes gathering assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. An executor who is organized and efficient can help the probate process go more smoothly.
  • Hire an experienced probate attorney: A probate attorney can help the executor navigate the probate process and avoid common mistakes.
  • Get a jump on collecting assets: The sooner the executor begins gathering assets, the sooner the estate can be settled.
  • Pay debts and taxes promptly: Creditors and the IRS must be paid in a timely manner to avoid delays in the probate process.
  • Keep beneficiaries informed: Beneficiaries have a right to know what is going on with the estate. Keeping them updated can help avoid disputes and delays.

How to avoid probate

Make a living trust

A living trust is an arrangement where you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee. The trustee manages the assets for your benefit during your lifetime. When you die, the trustee transfers ownership of the assets to your beneficiaries without probate.

Name a beneficiary

Many assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, can be transferred to a Beneficiary outside of probate.

Give gifts

You can give away up to $15,000 per year to each person without triggering gift taxes. This is a way to transfer ownership of assets during your lifetime.

Probate can be a long and complicated process, but there are ways to avoid it or speed it up. Talk to an experienced New Jersey probate attorney to learn more about how to handle the probate process.

What is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Administration

When a person dies, their assets need to be sorted and distributed through a legal process called probate. Probate is different from estate administration, which refers to the management of said property during this time.

  • Probate: a court process to confirm that an estate is settled and all property is distributed to beneficiaries.
  • Estate Administration: the named individual responsible for overseeing the settlement of the estate, including accounting for assets, distributing assets and paying debts/taxes on behalf of the deceased.

If the deceased created a will, the probate process may be easier – particularly if they appointed someone they knew to handle their estate. If there is no will (which happens when somebody dies intestate), the courts will assign an administrator/executor and that person becomes responsible for settling the estate.

If there are any challenges to the will or who gets the estate, it may gum up the probate process for the administrator. It could even get ugly, with family fighting and lawsuits being filed. If you're feeling overwhelmed as an administrator, a probate lawyer can help take some of the burden off your shoulders.

Do you need to hire a probate lawyer?

Many people choose to hire an attorney to help with the entire probate process. An attorney can help you navigate the legal system, avoid mistakes, and speed up the process.

If you are the executor of an estate, you may need to hire a probate lawyer if:

  • The estate is complex
  • The deceased left no will or the will is contested
  • You are named as a beneficiary in the will
  • You are an heir of the deceased (and there is no will)
  • You are involved in a family dispute over the estate
  • You need help understanding your rights and responsibilities

If you live in New Jersey or New York, the Law Firm of Benjamin Eckman can help you will all of your estate planning needs.

Click here to book your initial consultation.

Law Firm of Benjamin Eckman
Planning Today for Your Family's Tomorrow

1767 Morris Ave., Suite 314
Union, NJ 07083

By Appointment Only:

73 Mt. View Blvd.,
Wayne, NJ 07470

1 University Drive, Suite 609
Hackensack, NJ 07601

Contact Us
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1767 Morris Ave., Suite 314
Union, NJ 07083

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Wayne Office

By Appointment Only:

73 Mt. View Blvd.,
Wayne, NJ 07470

Get Directions
Hackensack Office

1 University Drive, Suite 609
Hackensack, NJ 07601

Get Directions
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