If you are under the impression that estate planning is a matter of document creation, you should take a broader perspective. When a last will is created, you are simply leaving behind a set of instructions. In order for your wishes to become reality, someone must follow these instructions after you pass away.
This person would be called the executor or executrix if you utilize a last will as your vehicle of asset transfer. An executor is a male estate administrator, and an executrix is a female who assumes the role.
The Probate Process
In legal terms, a person who is creating his or her last will is called the testator. Some people are under the assumption that an executor or executrix can follow the instructions that are left behind in the will without supervision after the passing of the testator.
This is not the case at all. Think about the dynamic that is in place after someone passes away. People are typically going to pass while they still have outstanding debts.
Let’s say that you lent a friend $100,000, and he signed a promissory note. Unfortunately, he passes away while he still owes you $85,000. Wouldn’t you have a right to payment out of his estate before his heirs receive their inheritances? Most people would certainly say yes, and the probate process exists to make sure that all interested parties have the opportunity to come forward seeking satisfaction.
Plus, probate serves another purpose. In order for a will to be valid, it has to be properly executed. Let’s look at another example. Your family has noticed that your aging uncle does not appear to be fully competent mentally. He is in his eighties, but he suddenly starts living with a much younger girlfriend.
Close family members are aware of the fact that he executed a will when he was fully capable of making sound decisions. However, after his passing, the girlfriend appears with a will that was executed a week before he passed away. He leaves everything to the girlfriend in this will, and his children and grandchildren are completely disinherited.
If there was no probate process, there would be no supervision. A lawsuit could potentially be filed by the family, but that would be very complicated. Since there is a probate process, the family would be able to challenge the validity of the will during probate under these circumstances.
In the state of New Jersey, the probate process takes place under the supervision of the Surrogate’s Court. Probate is very effective and streamlined in the state of New Jersey, and the process can be negotiated smoothly after your passing if you engage a probate attorney when you are planning your estate.
The executor or executrix of your estate may be someone that you trust implicitly, and this individual may be fully capable of handling the business oriented tasks that must be completed during the probate process. At the same time, few laypeople have experience with the estate administration rules and regulations.
When you are working with your estate planning attorney to draw up your last will, you could arrange for that attorney to act as the probate attorney after you are gone. You could instruct your executor to contact your attorney after your passing, and the attorney would be standing by to help guide the estate through probate.
The fact that a probate attorney has experience with the Surrogate’s Court is only half of the value. Your estate planning attorney is going to understand your objectives, because he or she helped you execute your will. In the end, the attorney would be perfectly positioned to make sure that your wishes are carried out to the letter.
Schedule a Consultation
It is wise to discuss all of your estate planning options with a local estate planning attorney when you get serious about your legacy.
Since you will be discussing sensitive personal, family, and financial matters, it can be kind of intimidating to have this type of conversation with someone you just met. Here at the Augulis Law Firm, we fully understand this dynamic.
We go the extra mile to make our clients feel comfortable every step of the way. You can be certain that you will be dealing with everyday people who genuinely care if you decide to work with our firm.
If you are ready to get started, send us a message through our contact page or give us a call at (908) 222-8803 to schedule a no obligation initial consultation.