Making a Probate Filing in NJ During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused businesses, courts, and government agencies to alter how they operate, which has resulted in changes with how probate filings are being carried out. While the courts throughout New Jersey were able to clear more than 6,000 probate cases in 2019, the current pandemic restrictions could create a backlog. Before you go forward with a probate filing, you should be aware of what this process currently entails and the challenges that await.

What Does Probate Involve?

When someone dies, their assets become a part of their estate in most situations. These assets can be kept separate from the estate in the event that they are co-owned by a spouse or a similar individual. The distribution of these assets is usually determined within a process known as probate, which is typically administered by a court. If you or a family member leaves a last will and testament, it will be taken before a judge to ensure that it’s legal.

If a will is not left behind, the probate court will identify the heirs of the estate, which is a decision that can be contested. Keep in mind that any debts and liabilities will need to be paid to creditors within the probate process. Afterward, the remaining assets will be provided to the correct beneficiaries. Any taxes owed will also need to be paid. Since probate filings usually occur before a judge, it’s important to understand that changes have been made during COVID-19. These changes apply to all 21 counties in New Jersey until the state of emergency has been lifted by the governor.

Changes With Probate Filings During COVID-19

Probate filings must be filed with a Surrogate Court in New Jersey. While the state of emergency is in place, the documents pertaining to probate can be filed by fax or email. The last will and testament must also be provided along with two forms of identification. One of the forms of identification that can be sent in via email or fax will need to be issued by the government. Proof of address and a valid social security number must be provided as well.

Once the court has received all of these documents, some qualification papers will be officially prepared before an appointment is set for virtual qualification or probate. While it’s possible to initially provide copies of all the documents mentioned previously, the originals of the documents must be shown during the video conference to ensure that probate can proceed without delay. When this conference has finished, all of these documents will need to be signed and mailed directly to the Surrogate Court with any necessary fees. These workarounds allow estates to go through the probate process even while the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing.

Why You Should Seek Help From an Estate Planning Lawyer

You should obtain assistance from an estate planning lawyer because of the complications that can arise throughout the probate process. These problems can include everything from the will being contested to unexpected creditors demanding payment. Keep in mind that the probate process comes with numerous deadlines and guidelines, which you might not be aware of if you attempt to navigate this process on your own.

To avoid the types of complications that would delay the completion of probate, it’s recommended that you contact a lawyer. Here at The Knee Law Firm in Hackensack, we can help you understand what to expect during probate while also making sure that all the necessary paperwork is filed on schedule. During your time of grieving, we want to help you handle any legal matters involving probate so that you don’t need to.

If you require guidance for the probate process and want to make sure that you have quality representation, contact our New Jersey estate planning lawyer today at (201) 996-1200 to schedule an initial consultation. We’re practicing social distancing measures to serve our clients.