Thoughts and Considerations for Executors

by: Begley Admin

Upon a decedent’s passing, it is necessary for the executor named therein to analyze the amount and value as well as the types of assets making up the estate to determine if it shall be necessary to “probate” the decedent’s last will and testament. Probating such a document, and the corresponding qualification of the executor with the surrogate of the county in which the decedent resided or owned property at the time of death, authorizes the appointed individual to transfer assets as directed in the will to the beneficiaries included therein. However, for purposes of such an assessment of the estate, it is important to recognize that not all assets must go through probate, as they may transfer automatically by operation of law depending on how the asset is titled.

Assets that are held in the decedent’s name alone, including real or personal property such as bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, as well as monies owed to the decedent, are probate property that shall be transferred in accordance with the decedent’s will. These assets cannot generally be transferred without going through probate. Assets held by the decedent jointly with a right of survivorship pass by operation of law at the decedent’s death to the surviving joint tenant. Bank accounts, securities, and real property are the most common assets designated in such a manner. In most cases, with such a designation, probate would not be necessary. It is important to forego attempting to change title to existing assets as there may be tax and other consequences. Moreover, some assets have a beneficiary designation that would have been made during the lifetime of the decedent. Specifically, designated beneficiary property is generally non-probate property which passes in accordance with such designation. Commonly, life insurance proceeds, 401 (k) plans, IRAs, and employee’s death benefits, as well as accounts held as “POD” (payable on death) can be categorized as non-probate property.

Furthermore, it is important to note that if the executor finds it necessary to probate the will, this document cannot be admitted to probate until 10 days following the decedent’s death. Upon appearing at the surrogate, usually at a designated time as arranged by the surrogate and proposed executor, it is necessary to bring the following documentation: (1) the original will; (2) a certified copy of the death certificate (which can be obtained from the municipality in which the decedent died); the full names and latest addresses of the closest surviving family and anyone named in the documents being offered for probate; and (4) a check or other accepted payment for applicable fees and costs associated with probate.

Begley Law Group is respected for their estate and trust administration law practice. They are experts at settling an estate efficiently and correctly so that a family can avoid conflict and personal liability to taxing authorities and beneficiaries. For more than 75 years, the firm has served the southern New Jersey and Philadelphia community.
To contact a New Jersey estate & trust administration attorney visit:
Begley Law Group
509 S. Lenola Road, Building 7
Moorestown, NJ 08057
Tel: 800.533.7227
Fax: 856.273.1062