Not every will has to be probated in New Jersey, but any will that involves assets that were solely owned in the decedent's name must pass through probate. This is true in New Jersey no matter what the value of the estate might be. For example, if the decedent has a will and he or she had a bank account in his or her name only and that bank account has a current value of $200, then the will would need to be probated. The same is true for an estate that included three cars, a home and a $50,000 account.
If, however, the decedent did not own anything solely, then a will doesn't have to be probated. This might occur if the decedent owned everything jointly with a surviving spouse. Even in such situations, some heirs want to see a legal closure of some type on the estate. In this case, they might file any existing will with New Jersey's Surrogate's Court. This allows a docket number to be assigned and makes the will a part of the public record.
One major reason a will is probated is so that the executor to the estate gains the legal power to transfer the person's assets to the estate. This allows the executor to handle the assets as required, including paying debts, paying taxes, and disbursing remaining assets in keeping with the decedent's wishes. Before probating a will, someone will need to determine which court is appropriate and whether the will is an original copy. Someone will also have to determine who the executor is and whether the person named will qualify to execute the estate.
If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, all of these details can be difficult to follow up on, and it can be easy to make a costly mistake in estate administration. Working with a lawyer who understands these matters removes some of the burden from you and your family and helps make probate processes more efficient.
Source: Mercer County, New Jersey, "Probate of Wills," accessed March 11, 2016