NJ & NY Probate Lawyer

The New Jersey and New York probate attorneys at The Chamberlain Law Firm can guide you through the legal process of administering a loved one’s estate. The probate process ensures that the deceased person’s debts are paid and that their assets are properly distributed. This distribution may be according to their will or, if they did not have a will, according to state law.

Probate With a Will

The first step in the probate process is determining whether the deceased person had a will. If so, it must be approved by the probate court. This may be through a “simple probate process,” or may require something more extensive, such as a motion or trial. 

If there is a valid will, the county surrogate’s court issues “letters testamentary.” These letters enable an appointed executor, known as a “personal representative” in New Jersey, to administer the estate. The executor pays the estate’s remaining debts and taxes and distributes the remainder of the estate pursuant to the will. 

Depending on the circumstances, serving as an executor can be complicated and time consuming. It may require reviewing and filing tax returns, accessing bank accounts, selling assets, making distributions, keeping detailed records, and more. Detailed recordkeeping is a must, since the executor could be required to provide an accounting upon demand from the court. For these reasons, it is always recommended that you appoint someone that is trustworthy and capable to be your executor.

Probate Without a Will

If a person dies without a will, it is referred to as dying “intestate.” When this happens, the person’s assets are distributed according to the New York or New Jersey intestate succession laws. These laws describe how a person’s assets are distributed by prioritizing certain relatives, such as  spouses and children, over others.

The probate process without a will is different than with a will and the likelihood of disagreement amongst potential candidates to handle the estate is higher. These situations can become very contentious and incur expensive legal bills. Thus, it is best to have a will to clarify who will handle your estate and how your assets will be distributed.

Depending on what state you live in, if the decedent was married and only had children of that marriage, the spouse will typically receive some or all of the assets, and the children sometimes get a share as well.  If the decedent was unmarried and childless, the assets are typically distributed to their parents or siblings. If the decedent had no living relatives, which is uncommon, the assets will typically go to the state.

There are many other ways assets may be distributed according to New York or New Jersey law. However, the most important point is that you do not want the state to dictate how your assets will be distributed. Therefore, it is highly advisable to have a will or living trust. However, if you are dealing with a loved one’s estate where there was no will, please reach out to The Chamberlain Law Firm at (201) 273-9763 or ajc@thechamberlainlawfirm.com to discuss how we can help you.

Inheritance Taxes in New Jersey

There are no inheritance taxes in New York. However, in New Jersey, inheritance taxes can be imposed on property transfers from a deceased person to their heirs or beneficiaries. The tax is based on the relationship between the deceased and the recipient, and the value of the inherited property. 

Class A beneficiaries are generally considered the closest relatives of the decedent, such as a spouse, children, or parents. In New Jersey, Class A beneficiaries are not subject to the inheritance tax.

Class C beneficiaries include brothers and sisters of a decedent. For distributions under $25,000, their inheritance is not subject to any tax. But beyond that amount, the inheritance is subject to 11% tax up to $1,075,000, with increases from there.

Class D is simple: it includes anyone not in Class A, C or E. Their inheritance tax is 15% up to $700,000 and 16% over that amount. There is no Class B beneficiary in New Jersey.  Class E beneficiaries include charities and religious institutions.

This is not an exhaustive list of everyone subject to an inheritance tax, but it should help you begin to understand when this tax is due. However, while knowing who pays an inheritance tax is helpful, completing the tax return is another story. So, leave it to the experts at The Chamberlain Law Firm. Give us a call if you need assistance in filing a New Jersey Inheritance Tax return.

Probate Litigation

While most probate proceedings go smoothly, there are occasions where disputes arise. Challenges to a will can include allegations that the deceased lacked mental capacity to sign the will. Or, someone may allege that there was duress or coercion involved in preparing or signing the will. Someone may also claim that the appointed executor is unfit to serve in this role. Unfortunately, these claims are not uncommon, and they all can result in a potentially complicated and costly litigation.

Our New Jersey and New York probate attorneys are experienced litigators, which is vital when a dispute arises in a probate case. When we work with our clients on these challenging cases, we always explain the law to help them understand how it applies to their unique situation. This makes it easier to make sound decisions throughout the litigation process. Be it representation at a settlement negotiation or at trial, we will work to get you a favorable result in a cost-effective way.

Estate Administration, Representing Beneficiaries, & Trust Administration

Besides the topics covered above, our attorneys can also help you with other estate administration matters.. As mentioned above, there may be a lot for an executor to do. e help them understand all their duties and provide detailed guidance along the way.

The same goes for trust administration. A high fiduciary standard must be adhered to when administering a trust. While trusts lay out its requirements, they may be difficult to understand. The consequences for not following the exact “letter of the trust” can be substantial. This is why many trustees come to us for guidance.

Additionally, sometimes beneficiaries are unhappy with the estate administrations. There are a variety of reasons, but it is typically related to  the unfair distribution of assets. These concerns are often  justified, and sometimes they are not. Either way, we will guide you through the process and explain your options in plain English.

As you can see, when someone passes away, there can be a very wide variety of matters to attend to. These situations can be relatively simple or extremely complicated. Regardless, The Chamberlain Law Firm can help. Please call us at (201) 273-9763 or email us at ajc@thechamberlainlawfirm.com to set up a consultation to discuss your probate matter.

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Mr. Chamberlain went above and beyond helping me figure out the next steps in planning for my elderly father’s future. One can imagine how overwhelming and confusing this...

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So appreciative of the amazing services Andrew Chamberlain provided me. I needed help with a will. Andrew was very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions. He and...

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