Following a loved one’s death, there are specific steps that families in New Jersey need to take to wind up the decedent’s final affairs. While these steps are not overly complicated (in most cases), they require in-depth knowledge of the relevant laws and procedures. For this reason, it is advisable to engage the services of an experienced New Jersey estate administration attorney.
The following is a general overview of the legal steps involved in administering a decedent’s estate in New Jersey:
1. Reviewing the Decedent’s Estate Plan
First, it is necessary to review the decedent’s estate plan. Ideally, someone in the family will have access to the decedent’s estate plan or will be able to contact the decedent’s estate planning attorney. Reviewing the decedent’s estate plan will provide answers to many important questions, including (but not limited to):
- Who has been named as the decedent’s personal representative?
- Will the decedent’s assets need to be distributed through probate? Did he or she create one or more revocable or irrevocable trusts?
- If the decedent has minor children, who has been appointed as the children’s guardian?
2. Filing an Application for Probate
Regardless of whether the decedent incorporated one or more trusts into his or her estate plan, some amount of probate may still be necessary. In New Jersey, the probate process is initiated by filing an application for probate along with a copy of the decedent’s will (if any) and the death certificate.
3. Going Through the Probate Process
The duration and scope of the probate process will depend heavily on the size of the decedent’s estate, the structure and terms of his or her estate plan, and whether there are any questions as to the estate plan’s legal enforceability. In some cases, probate can be fairly straightforward, while in others, it can be much more complicated—and potentially even lead to estate litigation.
4. Administering the Decedent’s Trust(s)
If the decedent created one or more trusts, then the appointed trustee(s) will need to step in and fulfill their respective roles. Depending on the terms of the trust(s), this may be a one-time event of distributing the trust assets to the named beneficiaries, or it may involve managing the trust(s) on a long-term basis.
5. Filing Tax Returns and Closing the Estate
Once the probate process is complete, then any necessary tax returns can be prepared and filed, and the estate can be formally closed. Trust administration may continue if necessary, but otherwise, at this point, the legal aspects of managing your loved one’s death should be final.
Schedule an Appointment with a New Jersey Estate Administration Lawyer Today
If you have recently lost a loved one in New Jersey and would like to speak with an attorney about administering your loved one’s estate, we invite you to schedule an initial consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. To speak with one of our experienced New Jersey estate administration lawyers in confidence, please call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can help online today.