From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Our entire lives, my parents and I have lived in Burlington County, NJ. My father died two years ago, and my mother passed away last week. I was an only child and everything in my mother’s will was left to me. I am executor. Do I need to probate her will, or open an estate? Her only assets were our family home (valued at $600,000) and her car.
The short answer is: no, you cannot transfer the deed without going through probate.
In New Jersey, there are only a few cases where there is no need to probate a will. The two most common situations are
- When a person dies with no individually held assets, or
- An individual dies with no assets whatsoever.
However, one could also imagine a situation where the only assets of the deceased are non-probate assets with individual beneficiary designations. In your case, because your mother had a house and car in her name, her will should be probated.
Probate is initiated in the Surrogate’s Court, but short certificates will not be issued until 11 days after the date of death. Short certificates give the Executor legal authority to sell or transfer assets of the deceased. This time period allows for an heir at law or a beneficiary to file a caveat.
After that, the probate process is initiated with the presentation of an original will, together with a certified copy of the death certificate and list of hears at law to the Surrogate by the named executor. If the Will is found to be valid, the Surrogate prepares the required documents to move the process forward and allow the Executor to begin acting. The probate process ensures that any creditors, or potential heirs, have an opportunity to stake their claim. Additionally, it gives the Executor finality in their disposition of estate assets and tax return filings.
At Klenk Law, we have experienced probate attorneys who can help executors navigate the complex area of administration and law that surrounds probate. Our experience can help save hours of confusion and protect executors from personal liability.
If you have questions about Probate in Burlington County, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.