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Avoiding Probate in New Jersey

How To Avoid Probate in New Jersey

Fountain pen, pocket watch on a last will and testament.

If you’ve talked to friends and family about the distribution of your estate after your death, you’ve likely heard someone talk about “avoiding probate.” So what is the probate process, why would you want to implement strategies to avoid probate, and just what might those strategies be?

Probate, essentially shorthand for “probate administration,” is a legal process whereby the probate court oversees the settlement of your estate, ensuring that

  • All interested parties are notified and have an opportunity to be part of the process
  • A thorough and accurate accounting of the estate is prepared
  • All final debts and tax obligations are satisfied
  • Any remaining assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes

Not surprisingly, the probate process can take a fair amount of time to complete, and can be costly.  In addition, any property that must go through probate can be tied up for many months or sometimes a few years, if there are estate or inheritance taxes to pay, or there are challenges to the validity of the will or the value of property.

So how can you avoid probate? The simplest way is by not owning the property. The probate process only applies to property that you own in your personal name. If you gift assets while you are still alive, or sell/transfer title to the property to your family, the property will not be a part of your estate, and that property will be excluded from the probate process. With real estate, you can transfer title to your children, and retain a life estate, which gives you the right to stay in the property until your death.

Another effective way to circumvent probate is to put your property into a trust. When you do this, you give up personal ownership of the property—the trust becomes the owner, yet we can let you stay in control of the property by naming you Trustee over the property. Because you no longer own the property, you don’t have to worry about it passing through probate. There are some rules with respect to the specific types of trusts that you can use, so it’s a good idea to have all your work done by an experienced attorney.

Contact Our Office

At the law offices of Gary F. Woodend, MBA, JD, we have protected the rights of hundreds of New Jersey residents in probate and estate matters. We have the knowledge, skill and experience to handle complex, multimillion dollar estates. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us at 609-654-5489 (toll-free at 888-336-8417) or contact our office online.

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