14 Ridgedale Avenue, Suite 254
Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927

When is a Will Beneficiary Notified?

Senior woman signing estate planning documents

After the death of a loved one, there will likely be difficult emotions to process. There are also logistics to move through, such as the burial, funeral, and other arrangements. On top of all of this, legal proceedings may commence regarding probate of the will.  It is actually very common for a person to have a friend or relative pass away and, although they may be aware that the deceased had provided for them in their will, they may not know what to expect as far as what they will receive from the decedent’s estate or when they will receive it. So, when is the beneficiary under a Last Will and Testament notified of such things?

When is a Will Beneficiary Notified?

To start off the administration of any New Jersey estate, the decedent’s will must be probated. The will though, cannot be submitted for probate until ten days after the decedent’s death. Once the will is submitted and administration of the estate has been initiated, the will must be proven valid and a personal representative, also known as an “executor,” of the estate will be appointed. County Surrogate Courts in New Jersey handle probate proceedings and once the will is probated, the personal representative of the estate is tasked with sending notice to the decedent’s next of kin and each beneficiary as to the particulars of the probate process – when and where the will was probated. This notice known as ‘Notice of Probate’ must be sent within 60 days and must also inform the beneficiaries that they are entitled to receive a copy of the probated will.

Even with a copy of the will, beneficiaries are often unfamiliar or uninformed as to the nature and extent of the decedent’s estate and what it is comprised of. You see, you may read that you have been provided for in a decedent’s will, but still not know what you will be getting from the estate. In some cases, either willfully or simply because they do not take the time to address your questions, a personal representative of the estate may not give you any more details beyond that which is contained in the will. The executor often needs time to determine what assets the decedent possessed at the time of his or her death. Of course, as a beneficiary, New Jersey law gives you the right to compel both an inventory and appraisal of the estate’s assets three months after the will has been probated. While informative, this inventory will only include probate assets of the estate.

To find out even more information, a beneficiary has the right, after a year from the will being probated has passed, to demand an accounting of each transaction the personal representative has entered into on the estate’s behalf. This accounting can either be formal or informal. A formal accounting is filed with the Surrogate court and subject to an audit. It will also be subject to judicial approval. An informal accounting, on the other hand, is not filed with the court.

Hopefully, you, as a beneficiary, have the benefit of working with a forthcoming personal representative that will help answer your questions as best as possible. Oftentimes, personal representatives are proficient at their jobs and the estate is administered without issue. Other times, however, a personal representative may be ill equipped to handle their duties and their conduct may warrant removal from their position. This may be merited in situations such as one where the personal representative refuses to file an inventory or accounting upon being ordered by the court, among other circumstances. Should the situation merit it, a personal representative can be removed by the court and a new personal representative will be appointed.

Estate Planning Attorney

Problems in probate? We are here to help. You can count on the team at E.A. Goodman Law to help you throughout probate proceedings. Contact us today.

Posted in: Estate Planning