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What happens during the probate of a will?

After a loved one dies, the family must deal with wrapping of his or her affairs. Hopefully, a deceased family member in New Jersey took the time to put his or her wishes into a will. The probate of a will is not without its challenges, but having a will puts the family in a better position than it would be without one.

First, the will is filed with the court, and the executor is officially appointed to handle the affairs of the decedent. Then all of the property that will be transferred through the probate process needs to be identified and secured. The executor will be responsible for that property and payment of the decedent's debts -- including bills, taxes and other claims. These payments typically come out of the estate.

If there are any disputes from either creditors or potential heirs, they are to be resolved before the probate can proceed. It is only after these tasks are done that any of the remaining probate estate can be distributed in accordance with the will. Other assets -- such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies and any jointly owned assets -- do not go through probate since they pass to the beneficiary or beneficiaries by what is called the operation of law. Therefore, these assets may be distributed regardless of how the probate is progressing.

Certain actions and deadlines need to be adhered to by a New Jersey executor during the probate of a will. Therefore, it may be beneficial to consult with someone familiar with the process to be sure that all of the relevant steps are followed to avoid mistakes. Once all of an executor's tasks are completed and the remaining assets of the estate are distributed, the executor will be released from his or her duty by the court.

Source: FindLaw, "The Probate Basics", , Sept. 2, 2014

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