New Jersey residents would most likely agree that the last thing most people want to think about when they have lost a loved one is paperwork. Unfortunately, at some point, it will be necessary for the family to deal with their loved one's estate. Many people are left wondering how to begin the estate administration.
The first thing that needs to be determined is whether the deceased had a will. Often, if there is a will, someone in the family will know that one exists and possibly even where it is kept. Once that will is found, it will need to be taken to the county courthouse where the deceased lived in order to be filed. This will begin the probate process. If there is no will available, the deceased's property will pass in accordance with New Jersey's laws regarding intestacy.
Once the will is filed, there will need to be a determination of what assets will need to go through the probate court and which assets will pass to beneficiaries directly. Gathering all of the assets to be appraised will be the job of the executor of the will, or the administrator of the estate if there is no will. An appraisal of the estate's assets is required, in part, to determine if a federal estate tax return needs to be filed.
These initial actions will determine how the estate administration will proceed. If the majority of the assets are not required to pass through the probate court, that will lessen the time and effort that will be needed to administer the estate in court. The probate process can be complex and requires that certain steps be taken in order to ensure that the decedent's assets are legally distributed. It may be beneficial to seek the advice and assistance of someone familiar with the process.
Source: The Journal, "Administering an estate," Deborah Miller, June 9, 2013