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Mythbusting Probate: 4 Common Misconceptions

Last updated on: May 21, 2021

Probate is perhaps one of the most misunderstood processes in the world of estate planning. These myths can shape people’s estate planning decisions and leave their assets unprotected, so it is crucial to understand common myths, know why they are wrong, and be fully informed while creating your estate documents. This pertains to the Probate process in New Jersey. Other states have different probate processes that may need more consideration and questions for your estate professional. 

1. Estates With Wills Do Not Go Through Probate

A substantial amount of people believe that an estate does not go through probate if the testator has a will. However, an estate with a will still goes through probate. During the probate process, the validity of the will is verified and the judge verifies that there are no other wills that may change how the estate is administered.

This misconception often arises because of the confusion between wills and trusts. Living trusts often bypass the probate process, as everything in the trust becomes the responsibility of the successor trustee when the original trustee passes away.

2. Probate is Prohibitively Expensive

One of the greatest fears surrounding probate is the cost associated with it. People often think that the expenses of probate will leave their estate drained. While there are fees and expenses that come with probate, in New Jersey, they are generally a relatively small part of the estate. Expenses increase considerably, though, when there are disputes regarding the administration of the estate.

3. The Probate Process Takes Years to Complete

Everyone has heard horror stories of people passing away without estate plans and their assets being tied up for years in probate. These cases are outliers. In many situations, probate in New Jersey is resolved within a matter of months, not years. The probate process can take much longer if the estate is extremely large, there are complicated tax or debt situations, or there are family disputes over assets and their distribution.

4. The Oldest Child is the Personal Representative or Executor During Probate

There is no law in place stating that a testator’s oldest child becomes the executor or personal representative of the estate. In many situations and family dynamics, this responsibility naturally falls to the oldest child, but it is by no means required. The executor may be named in estate planning documents or appointed by the court. The executor does not even have to be a close family member of the deceased. A family friend or other trusted individual may be named as executor. Estate planning is complicated, particularly for those who want to use their assets to provide for family members’ unique needs. That’s why it is crucial to work with a trusted estate planning attorney. Schedule your consultation now by calling The Matus Law Group at 732-281-0060.

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus

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