What’s The Difference Between Supervised and Unsupervised Probate?

Depending on which states you own assets in and how much estate planning you have done, there may be a need for supervised or unsupervised probate after you pass away.

Probate is the formal legal process for transferring your assets after you pass away, and it is important to remember that not every asset you own is part of your probate estate. However, there are sometimes situations in which non probate assets are brought into a probate estate.

Both kinds of probate administrations do require some level of court involvement, but a supervised probate situation requires much more court involvement, because nearly every action taken by the executor or personal representative must be formally approved by the court. There is much less court involvement, however, in an unsupervised probate administration, because the court will appoint a personal representative and then tell him or her to manage all of the assets by filing an inventory with the court.

At that point, the personal representative has a lot of discretion regarding following either intestate succession rules or the terms of the person’s will, and at the conclusion of this a report is submitted to the court.

The more estate planning you do, the easier it will be for your loved ones to receive the assets that you have set aside for them. contact an experienced estate planning lawyer to learn more about which assets are part of your probate estate, and how advanced planning can help your loved ones in the future.

If you need help understanding an upcoming New Jersey probate, set aside a time to meet with an estate planning lawyer to discuss your options.

Are There Any Probate Shortcuts In New Jersey?

When a loved one passes away who lived in New Jersey there are many questions that must be answered regarding the administration of their estate. Certain small estates may qualify for a probate shortcut. This makes it much faster and easier for surviving family members to transfer property left behind by the person who passed away. You may be able to transfer significant amounts of property using this probate shortcut if the simplified probate procedure applies.

An executor must submit a written request to the local probate court asking for the simplified procedure to be used. The court can then approve that executor to take the action of distributing assets without going through the regular process of probate. If there is no valid will and the value of all property doesn’t exceed $20,000, the domestic partner or surviving spouse is entitled to all of it without probate, but they must use all of it except for $5,000 to pay any creditors who have valid claims.

In order for the request to be approved, it must include the deceased person’s residence location and the nature and value of any real and personal property owned by that person. For more assistance with understanding the simplified probate procedures in New Jersey, schedule a consultation with an attorney today.

The more you know about your own estate size, the easier it is to determine which kinds of planning options you must consider moving forward. You can make things easier for your loved ones by setting up an estate plan well in advance. Contact our NJ estate planning office today to discuss.

When Will a Loved One Need to Start the Probate Process?

When you pass away, there are many important tasks that need to be taken care of as soon as possible. It can often be overwhelming or confusing for family members to figure out what to do, particularly if they cannot locate your documents or are unaware of what you wanted to happen with regard to funeral and burial planning.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to opening probate, but the truth is that this should be done by an intended or appointed personal representative as soon as possible after you pass away. In many cases, it makes sense for family members and friends to consider the grieving process before jumping into the legal and administrative aspects of death. That being said, an executor or personal representative doesn’t have the appropriate authority to act on behalf of the estate until they have been formally appointed.

There’s not much that the that a probate lawyer or an appointed personal representative is able to do until the death certificate has been issued and until probate has been opened. It may be a good opportunity to review and look for any and all documents that the deceased might have created, including their will and any other important paperwork, such as deeds or location information about a safety deposit box. Notifying the person you intend to appoint as executor or personal representative is strongly recommended to increase the chances that they will be able to spring into action relatively quickly.

If you don’t yet have your estate set up, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about your options. A lawyer can advise you about what to expect and how to create a comprehensive estate plan to match your goals.

The Impact of State Probate Rules on Self-Created Wills

Creating a will online or using a basic template might seem like the easiest route. After all, this is a task many people put off to begin with, and finding a simple template that makes it go much more quickly is very enticing. However, simply filling out an online form is not enough to create a valid will. 

This is because every state across the country has their own rules for determining whether or not a will is validly executed. In order to decrease the possibility of someone being forced to or encouraged to sign a will against their direct wishes, these rules help to make sure that a person understands what they are signing, is cognizant of the impacts of the entire process, and is making this decision on their own through valid execution. 

In many cases, these rules require that the will be in writing, that it is signed, and it is witnessed by others. Simply printing out a form online, therefore, does not give you the protection that you are looking for. 

It can be a good starting place as you begin to contemplate questions that you might have about creating your own estate plan or things you’d like to include in your own will, but it will not cover all of the specific needs that you have. Make sure that you consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer about the questions and concerns that you have for your next steps.

What are the Most Common Probate Problems?

When you pass away, there is a good chance that at least part of your estate will enter probate in your state. With estate planning, you can remove as many assets from your probate estate as possible, but only when you have carefully considered all assets and liabilities and followed through with retitling things into the name of trusts, among other strategies.

But this might prompt you to ask, why avoid probate in the first place? The truth is that any number of problems can pop up as your loved ones attempt to navigate the probate process, all of which can take time, energy, and money from your family members during time when they are already coping with grief. This is why most people who recognize the challenges of probate will sit down with an estate planning lawyer to walk through their options for making things easier for loved ones.

While probate problems can be very specific to your assets and your own estate, here are some of the most common ones that you might want to prevent with proper planning:

  • No one wants to be the executor, or loved ones argue about who will serve in this role, leading to additional family conflict
  • Dispute over the value of the estate or the executor being unable to find certain assets
  • Division of asset concerns where people receive equal shares of something and are not able to agree on what to do with that asset
  • Someone challenges the validity of the will entirely, slowing down probate and possibly increasing conflict between beneficiaries

Being proactive about these concerns can help you create an estate plan that addresses these issues and makes it easier for your loved ones to move through the probate process.

What Are Fair Executor Fees for New Jersey Executors?

There are two primary sources that contribute to executor fees in New Jersey: corpus commissions and income commissions. Corpus includes every asset received by the executor at the time of the decedent’s death. The executor is therefore entitled to a charge on a percentage basis associated with the size of the estate.

For estates up to $200,000 in value this fee allowed is 5%. For the amounts between $200,000 and $1 million, that fee is 3.5% and for amounts $1 million up that fee is 2%. Income commission is associated with income generated by the estate. A New Jersey executor is eligible to receive 6% of all income received per NJSA 3(b):18-13.

Executors can also charge at least 1/5th of the 1% of the trust corpus each year as corpus commission for an estate that lasts longer than one year. It can be beneficial to retain the services of an experienced estate planning lawyer when crafting your own estate so that you can understand how an executor’s fees could influence the overall value inside the estate.         

If you have a specific opinion on how you want your executor to get paid, you need to discuss this with your estate planning lawyer as you put together a plan for your will. The more clarity you bring to the situation, the easier it will be for your executor to go into this role understanding your intentions. When an executor knows your plans for them to get paid as well as the tasks associated with closing out probate, all of the tasks are likely to be completed effectively and efficiently.

How Does Undue Influence Impact an Estate Plan?

Undue influence happens when an outside party exerts pressure on an individual causing that individual to adjust their estate plans to the benefit of the influencer. In simple terms, this can often refer to one person taking advantage of another. A live in care provider to your elderly loved one, for example, might exert undue influence on a loved one, convincing that elderly family member to update their estate plan so that it significantly benefits the care provider.

In many cases the influencer could be involved in separating the family member from his or her loved ones to create a direct sense of connection and dependency. Those individuals suffering from a form of dementia, people with disabilities and elderly people are most susceptible to the impact of undue influence. It’s important to note that the influencer could be a person outside or inside the family.

If you suspect that your loved one was a victim of undue influence that caused significant changes to an existing estate plan, you can contest the trust or will that was updated at the influencer’s request once the estate has been admitted to probate. There are a few different factors that the court will explore when determining whether or not undue influence was at play.

These primary indicators can include unexpected gifts, whether or not the testator was isolated, the testator’s mental and physical state at the time of the updated estate plan, and scrutinizing any special relationships that the testator had with the influencer. For more information about avoiding undue influence in your own estate plan and protecting your interests now, set up a time to sit down and discuss your estate plan with a lawyer.  Need more support or have specific questions about your NJ estate plan? Set up a time to speak with our trusted estate planning lawyers in NJ. 

Tips for Preventing Sibling Arguments Over Your Estate Plan

The last thing you want is for your loved ones to end up in court battling over the terms of your estate. In addition to piling on unnecessary stress and conflict during this period, issues like this can reduce the overall value of your estate, too.

You’ve thought carefully about your estate plan and what you hope to achieve with it and the assets you leave behind. You also have to think carefully about the message that you’ll be sending to your children when your estate plan is activated. 

Leaving behind unequal inheritances might make sense for your family but it can also pave the path for potential arguments and conflicts among the siblings who have received differing amounts. If you haven’t had the conversations about your decision to go this route, you need to think about your unique family dynamics. 

Leaving unequal inheritances isn’t the only way to find yourself facing these challenges. In fact, some children who have contributed more or might see themselves as having more substantial financial needs could be frustrated by a strictly equal distribution of assets. One of the first steps that you can take is to define what fair looks like for your family that might not be the same as what it looks like for everyone else, but the more carefully that you can think about this for your individual purposes the easier it will be to approach estate planning with care.      

What is the Role of a Will Executor in NJ?

Are you trying to decide who to appoint as your will executor in New Jersey? This important decision could have ripple effects for your entire family, and deciding who to instill in this role is well worth taking some time.

Your NJ estate planning lawyer can help you determine the role that a will executor will have in the management of your estate. probate-NJ

The tasks that must be carried out by an executor are important and include:

  • Collecting and managing all assets, including liquid and illiquid ones
  • Filing appropriate tax returns for the estate
  • Pay taxes and debts
  • Distributing any remaining assets as directed by the deceased

The executor is key in probating the will. This is the process by which the will is admitted to court. The determination by the court that the will is legal is important because it empowers the executor to move on with his or her duties.

The executor also takes legal title for estate assets, and this means that an accounting might be required. Running a business, managing a securities portfolio, or liquidating assets are all steps that might be taken by an executor depending on the complexity of the estate itself.

It’s recommended that you choose someone who is familiar and comfortable with financial and tax matters since this is a key task carried out by the executor. Taxes typically have to be paid in advance of other debts, but getting the assistance of a probate lawyer is helpful in ensuring that each step taken by the executor is the proper one for the situation at hand.


How to Select the Right Executor for Your Will

An executor should be someone you can trust who will make things easy for your loved ones when closing out your estate. This person should be well prepared for the process.

last will and testament with dollar , certificate and key.

When dealing with all end of life issues, it’s far too easy to get overwhelmed. If you have been named the executor of someone else’s will or if you are thinking about who to name as the executor of your own estate, you need to follow some simple guidelines to ensure that you have made the right choice. First of all, an executor has many different responsibilities, so you should never put someone in this role without first discussing it with them. There are legal and financial obligations that must be addressed by the executor after you pass away.

These include maintaining property until the estate is settled, paying taxes and bills for the estate, notifying creditors about the death of the deceased, making court appearances on behalf of the estate and distributing assets according to the will. If significant court time is required or if the will is especially complex, an executor might need to hire an attorney to assist with probate administration.

Typically, you can select anyone to serve in the role of will executor and no financial or legal knowledge is usually required. For that reason, many of the most common executors to wills you’ll find are children, siblings and spouses. You need to have an executor who has organization, honesty and communication as top qualities. People often overlook the ability to communicate and the requirement of being organized. However, during a challenging time for your loved ones, they deserve to have someone with these qualities instilled in such a role.

Other important factors you need to contemplate when selecting an executor include family dynamics, such as whether or not your loved ones will get along with the executor, the executor’s physical location when it comes to issues such as checking the mail, court appearances and property maintenance, and whether or not you need to name an alternate executor. Talk to a lawyer about how to select the right executor to help you.


Five Tips to Avoid the Probate Process

You might have heard that probate is an expensive and time-consuming process, and that is certainly true. Another added downside of probate is that your personal estate becomes a matter of public record. This is one of the biggest reasons to consider avoiding going through the probate process.

Inheritance paper scrap on US cash

A properly structured estate plan makes things easier to transfer those assets efficiently without a grueling process known as probate. Without a will, the probate process is officially guided by your state’s legal standards for the distribution of property after a person passes away.

Avoiding probate now will help your family members in a difficult time and ensure that your estate is managed as efficiently as possible.

There are five simple ways that you can discuss with your estate planning lawyer about how to keep an estate out of the probate process. These include:

  • Proper titling, including joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety.
  • Using certain accounts that allow for beneficiaries to be designated, such as a life insurance policy.
  • Gifting assets while you are still alive.
  • Establishing a living trust that you can make edits to over the course of your life.
  • Using a life estate.

No matter what type of estate plan you intend to pursue, you should consult with a lawyer about how to handle this situation and what makes the most sense for you and your loved ones.  No matter your reasoning for wanting to keep your estate private, but it needs to be accomplished with a lawyer’s help.

Avoiding probate might not seem like something that benefits you directly, but during a time when your loved ones are already grieving and attempting to move on from the loss of someone they care about, having a thoroughly established estate plan means one less thing for them to worry about, enabling beneficiaries to receive assets sooner rather than later and minimizing the chances for a conflict or dispute around your estate planning intentions.


Can Probate Really Take as Long as Six Months?

One of the most common reasons for people to initiate the estate planning process early on is to avoid the process of probate. Probate is a public matter and one that can have substantial time and expense for your loved ones after you pass away. Not having a will or other estate planning tools means that your estate will transfer into probate. Any person who has to administer a deceased loved one’s estate knows that it can take up to six months after someone passes away or even longer in the event there are contests and challenges that emerge.

The word probate on a stamp on a big folder of paperwork

Assets that are governed by contracts, such as certain bank accounts and life insurance are governed by applicable roles inside the contract, but there are other assets that are governed by probate law. The value of contracts like bank accounts, real estate transfers and life insurance is triggered by death, and these have significant value related to affordability and speed. The probate process, however, can be extremely lengthy and frustrating largely because the primary purpose of probate is to ensure communication and fairness.

There is a great deal of grief associated with the passing of a family member, which means that other family members may become extremely impatient during probate administration. However, estate administration going through the probate process usually takes at least six months. The six-month period is because of the many different elements of closing on a person’s estate that needs to occur as soon as possible after someone passes away. Each of these stages, however, can take some time.

For example, all debts must be paid, all paperwork must be obtained and properly filed, and if someone comes forward to challenge the validity of the will or the estate itself, this can lead to additional challenges on behalf of the loved ones who were anticipating that probate would be closed out as soon as possible.

If you would like to streamline the probate administration process by conducting appropriate estate planning well in advance with the support of a lawyer, an estate planning attorney can walk you through every phase of what to anticipate and can help you avoid some of the most common missteps.

A lawyer can tell you the best strategies to use to avoid probate so that your loved ones can move on sooner rather than later.


Is Not Avoiding Probate a Huge Mistake on Your Part?

When assets pass to others through a will, this means that your estate goes through the probate process. Probate can be very time consuming and expensive for your loved ones and since the details vary from one state to another, it’s important to be clear about the exact procedures that may apply if your estate ends up going through probate. how to avoid probate

Although many states have worked towards more streamlined and less expensive probate procedures, the costs and delays of the old probate process are likely to stay in place. This means that probate can be very disruptive to the management of your assets and add additional frustration for your loved ones.

This is particularly true when you own assets in more than one state, since your estate may have to go through probate in each of those individual states. Avoiding probate is a common goal for people who are putting together their estate plan because probate is a very public process. Anyone can review the probate court records to figure out how much your probate estate was worth, how you divided it and what you owned and owed.

Certain assets automatically avoid probate of law, including annuities, retirement accounts, and jointly owned property but other remaining property should be structured within a trust or other estate planning tool to ensure that it does not become a matter of public record.

Probate 101: What You Need to Know to Conduct Your Estate Planning

Probate is the term for a legal procedure that is used to settle a decedent’s estate, when they have not taken the appropriate estate planning precautions. It is a process through which the court validates the will if one existed, appoints an administrator if there was no will, or grants authority to the executor if there is a will. This process ensures that the property is distributed, that taxes are paid and also enables the legal transfer of the ownership of the property. get help avoiding probate in NJ

All of a person’s property is subject to probate proceedings whether or not a will exists, except for that property that is put inside a trust, property subject to a transfer on death deed, life insurance proceeds, payable on death accounts or property owned in joint tenancy with another person.


The property outlined in these categories automatically passes to the joint tenant, the trust beneficiary or the designated beneficiary – although it could still be subject to estate and inheritance taxes if you have not taken the appropriate estate planning precautions. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can give you a better overview of the types of stages that estate planning requires and how you can get the benefits provided by someone who can help you select the strategies and tactics necessary for protecting your interests.

Small Estates Can Avoid Probate as Well

If you have a relatively simple estate and have already listed someone as a beneficiary on all of your investments and life insurance policies, you may wish to consider consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney for the purposes of avoiding probate. If you have already listed someone as a beneficiary in your investment accounts, there’s a good chance that you already realize that you have a goal of avoiding probate. many estates can avoid probate

A transfer-on-death deed may be used for the home and you may also wish to consider how to appropriately pass on a car title. Your estate planning is a comprehensive process and only one piece of this is a will. Your will controls probate assets and those are the ones in your name that do not have any beneficiary designations. A home and a car are great examples of probate assets. Investment accounts, however, are non-probate assets because they have separate beneficiary designations and will pass outside of the will process as a result. This means that if you have stipulated in your will that someone should receive your investment account but have a separate beneficiary listed, the company managing your investment accounts will have to pass it on to the person named as the beneficiary designation.

Your will, in this example, would only control the car and the home but not the investment account. This means that if you wish to avoid probate, you’ll have to take action for both the home and the car. Using a transfer-on-death deed is one option you may also add as a beneficiary designation on a title. There are many different options available to you for the purposes of estate planning and scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney is recommended.


What You Should Know About Probate and How to Avoid It

The topic of probate can generate many different questions for people approaching the estate planning process but one of the most common is how can I avoid it. Probate is the legal process in New Jersey to determine whether a deceased individual’s will is valid and genuine. Probate can also determine who the beneficiaries are when a person passes away without a will by handling this within the court.

The probate courts are responsible for appointing an executor who has the authority to dispose of any of the assets either as outlined by the deceased’s will or by the court, in situations in which a person doesn’t have a will. There are three common ways that you can avoid the probate process including:

  • Designating beneficiaries directly.
  • Using joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.
  • Using living trusts.

All of these can be extremely valuable strategies to outline a plan for you to pass on assets to your loved ones without the headache of having them go through the probate process. Probate can also be extremely public so putting together a trust can give you a layer of some privacy and also clarity about your plans that can be managed by the trustee when you pass away.

While some people may not be concerned about how probate is managed, it’s always a good idea to consider whether or not it makes sense to plan ahead to ensure things are as easy as possible for your loved ones. When you pass away, your family will be coping with the hardship of grief. You may be able to make things easier on them by charting out a process that avoids probate.


Lessons from the Joan Rivers Estate

Joan Rivers was heralded as a stellar performer, but she also left behind a legacy as an incredible businesswoman. Her estate included income, collectibles, and real estate that was estimated in value between $150 million and $250 million. She left behind detailed instructions for her assets after her death, which is rare in a society when many celebrity deaths highlight the weaknesses of their estate plans. Photo Credit: breitbart.com

Looking at her careful planning, there are a few key lessons: be prepared for the unexpected, outline plans for pets, and correctly title the assets. Joan Rivers was also masterful in giving her family a brief overview of the estate plans to help improve clarity and reduce the possibility of arguments. Rivers made use of family trusts to reduce the tax burden for her beneficiaries and titled her assets

appropriately to allow for the smooth transition of business assets. This act alone helped to diminish her capital gains taxes.

Regardless of the size of your estate, proper planning allows you to pass on assets to your heirs in the most efficient manner while minimizing the tax liability. Contact our offices today for a consultation for your business and personal needs through email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Robin Williams’ Trusts Call for Conversation About Trust Privacy

The loss of Robin Williams last week certainly sent ripples across the country, but it also highlights an important topic for your estate plans: privacy. Within a matter of hours after news outlets started reporting his death, details about the trusts documents he had established for his three children started emerging as well. The prime sources for these details? Gossip websites and tabloid. One site even published a 35-page document detailing Williams’ irrevocable trusts established for his children.

Shortly after these documents, one of which dated back to 1989, hit the media, Williams’ publicist responded that neither of them were accurate with regards to the former actor’s current estate plan. What’s most disturbing, however, is that trusts are most often used instead of wills because of the veil of privacy they offer.

So how did Williams’ documents, albeit outdated, end up in the public eye? The trustee of both the trusts had requested a co-trustee successor be appointed back in 2008, when the originally designated individual passed away. All of the public sharing of the trust document could easily have been avoided simply using trust protectors, like an accountant, trusted friend, or attorney who retains the power to appoint or remove trustees. To learn more about ensuring that your trusts are protected privately, contact our offices at info@lawesq.net or via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Robin Williams’ Trusts Call for Conversation About Trust Privacy










Photo Credit: emilystepp.com

Do I Need a Trust?

As trusts have gotten more popular and evolved in type to appeal to a lot of people, so now you might be under the impression that you must have a trust. While it’s not for everyone, there are so many trusts out there that it’s very likely you could find one that will help you to meet your goals, including to protect your assets and minimize taxes.

Do I Need a Trust?

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Major liquid assets, setting up care for a child with special needs, and a variety of real estate ownership are a few of the reasons that people might initially turn to trusts. If you’re a resident of a state with a high state estate tax, income tax or probate costs, you’re likely to be concerned about the hit of taxes, too. This refers to situations where a federal estate tax is factored into your asset value, but an additional taxable event occurs at the state level. Without proper planning, you could find that the value of the assets you have worked so hard to build is extremely vulnerable to these taxes and costs.

Contact our offices today to learn more about how these trusts can help you. Send us a message at info@lawesq.net or call us 732-521-9455.

Thanks, But No Thanks. State Estate Taxes & Disclaimer-Based Approach

Twenty-one states have their own estate taxes, including New York and New Jersey. Many of these states have exemption amounts beneath the federal exemption, so it’s worth factoring in state estate taxes in your overall estate planning process.

Thanks But No Thanks State Estate Taxes & Disclaimer-Based Approach
(Photo Credit: rgbrenner.com)

One way for married couples domiciled in those states with it’s own estate taxes to plan is to use the disclaimer-based approach. A disclaimer refers to a refusal by a beneficiary of a gift transferred to that beneficiary during life or at the time of death through a will, trust, or another mechanism.
The government makes a distinction between “nonqualified” and “qualified” disclaimers.

Using a disclaimer-based approach, the residuary estate passes on to the surviving spouse in a plan that provide that if the surviving spouse disclaims the interest, those assets will pass to a disclaimer credit shelter trust. This approach can add an element of flexibility to planning by empowering the spouse to make any needed changes. The surviving spouse will need to execute a disclaimed within nine months of the date of death. In order to ensure that you are prepared to use this disclaimer, work with an estate planning attorney to learn more. For all your complex estate planning, contact us at info@lawesq.net or via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.