The New Jersey Probate Process and How You Can Avoid It by Use of a Living Trust

HNWElder Law, Estate Planning, Will Contest and Probate Litigation

By Fredrick P. Niemann, a NJ Trust Attorney

The death of a family member can be one of the most stressful times of anyone’s life. Adding to this stress can be drawn-out proceedings under New Jersey probate, the process in which the court oversees the division of the decedent’s estate. Many times, dividing the estate of a loved one is the last thing you want to think about at such an emotional time. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the stress and sometimes avoid the probate process.

During the probate proceedings, the Court will not only oversee the division of the decedent’s assets, but will also resolve claims of creditors and debts and hear any claims of interest that heirs to the estate may have. Pertaining to the assets of the deceased, the Court will follow the division that the decedent set forth in their will, if the deceased has one. If they do not have a will, the Court will divide the assets according to law, increasing the likelihood that your assets will not go to the people you specifically intended them to.

The Court will appoint someone, called an executor, to become the overseer of the entire estate. Their job is to then write checks, sign over deeds, and handle any other affairs the estate may have. It is the executor’s responsibility to settle all debts and claims against the deceased. Often the executor will hire an experienced probate attorney experienced in New Jersey Estate Administration to assist with most matters, particularly in larger estates with a multitude of complex issues.

As you can imagine, the probate process can be long and drawn-out. Most families desire to avoid such a process. Creating a living trust allows you to ensure that your family will not have to suffer through the probate process during such an emotional time. When you create a living trust, you place your assets that are going to be distributed in trust and name a trustee to distribute them upon your death. The Court will not be involved in the distribution, nor will a court-appointed executor. The trustee acts as the administrator of your estate upon your death. Not only is the trustee someone trustworthy that you choose, but they are obligated by law to follow your wishes indicated in the trust. The living trust thus effectively ensures that your estate will be administrated to your heirs as you wish, while avoiding the stressful death probate process for your family. 

The probate process can take quite a while, depending on how complex your estate is. It is often desirable to avoid this process, especially since it is during a difficult, emotional time for any family. Creating a living trust allows your family to avoid the process, while assuring you that your estate will be distributed as you desire.  If you have questions about New Jersey probate or the benefits of creating a living trust, please call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., an experienced New Jersey Trust & Estate attorney today.  He can be reached toll-free at 888-800-7442 or by email at He would happy to meet with you on any estate planning matter you may have.  For further information, go to to learn more.

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