Morris & Bergen County Probate and Trust Administration Attorney
Losing a loved one is never easy as surviving family members are left to cope with sadness and grief. Nonetheless, there are important tasks that must be handled during this difficult time, not the least of which is administering the deceased person’s estate. Although many individuals have a general understanding of probate, navigating the process can be complicated and confusing without the advice and guidance of a trustworthy attorney.
Located in Morristown, E.A. Goodman Law, LLC provides probate and estate administration services to clients throughout the state of New Jersey. We are knowledgeable in the rules and procedures of the local probate courts and guide executors and estate administrators through these legal proceedings. Additionally, we assist clients with the complicated administration process involved in overseeing trusts. Given the fact that executors and trustees have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries and can be held liable for mistakes or misdeeds, working with a skilled and experienced attorney is invaluable.
What is Probate?
Technically, probate is the legal proceeding to establish the validity of a will, and the appointment of the executor. However, the word probate is generally used more broadly to refer to the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased individual.
- Filing an application for probate and the appointment of an executor or administrator
- Notifying beneficiaries and heirs
- Conducting an inventory and appraisal of the estate assets
- Collecting the assets
- Identifying the decedent’s creditors
- Paying the decedent’s debts to creditors
- Filing the decedent’s final income taxes
- Paying any applicable estate taxes
- Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries
To initiate a probate proceeding, the individual named as executor in the will is required to apply to the surrogate court to be appointed, or in certain cases to petition the court to be appointed. The court will determine the validity of the will and if the designated executor is capable of acting as executor, will issue Letters Testamentary, and officially open the probate.
If the decedent did not have a valid will, the person is said to have died “intestate.” In this situation, a surviving family member or close associate of the decedent must ask the court to be appointed as the estate administrator. The probate court will issues Letters of Administration and open probate. The estate assets are then managed and distributed in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws.
At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC we advise executors and estate administrators and work to ensure that the beneficiaries interests are protected. In particular, we guide our clients through:
- Collecting IRA’s, Life Insurance, 401k’s, Pensions, Stocks, Bonds, Bank Accounts and other assets
- Identifying liabilities
- Post-mortem tax planning to maximize the deductions available to the estate
- Preparing the required tax returns
- Obtaining New Jersey Tax waivers
- Re-Titling Assets
- Distributing assets and funding trusts, if any
- Closing the estate
We also handle special circumstances, such as assisting with probating a lost original will if a copy is found, closing an insolvent estate when the decedent’s debts exceed expenses to avoid any personal liability, disclaiming or abandoning property of the estate, as well as elective share elections in accordance with state law (NJ Rev Stat § 3B:8-1), if a spouse is excluded from a will.
What is a will contest?
At times, the validity of a will may be questioned in a legal proceeding known as a will contest. This situation can arise if the will was not properly executed, the person making the will lacked mental capacity, there was undue influence or coercion in making the will, or if fraud or forgery were involved in preparing the will. In light of the costs associated with contesting a will, we often encourage parties to resolve disputes through negotiated settlements. At the same time, we are fully capable of successfully litigating any matter in the probate courts.
Although probate is not necessary for trust-based estate plans, a trust must be administered under applicable laws to carry out the terms of the trust. We routinely assist clients with the administration process relative to managing trusts in New Jersey. Our objective is to allow trustees to fulfill their fiduciary duties in accordance with the highest standards. As fiduciaries, trustees are in a position of trust with the beneficiaries and have certain legal obligations and duties, which may include:
- Notifying beneficiaries of the Trustmaker’s passing
- Meetings with beneficiaries
- Inventorying and appraising trust property
- Reviewing trust distribution obligations
- Obtaining court authorization or interpretation of trust provisions if needed
- Decanting to another trust
- Changing the Situs of the trust
- Amending Irrevocable Trusts
- Filing tax returns
- Preparing Trust accountings
- Distributing the assets
- Terminating Trusts
As you can see, fulfilling these obligations requires trustees to be competent and trustworthy. Moreover, the trust administration process can become complicated when conflicts arise among the beneficiaries. At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, we are committed to helping trustees fulfill their obligations while strictly adhering to applicable state laws and regulations. Above all, we work to help our clients avoid costly mistakes that could result in legal liabilities and financial penalties. We also assist beneficiaries in understanding and enforcing their rights under a trust.
Morristown Probate and Estate Administration/Trust Administration Services
Administering an estate is a serious responsibility that can become an additional burden after the loss of a loved one. If you have been named executor or have been appointed as an administrator of an estate and need assistance in managing the probate process, the team at E.A. Goodman Law, LLC is here to help. If you have created a trust and have retained certain powers, we can assist you with removing and appointing trustees, trust protectors, investment advisors and moving the situs of the trust. We also assist those who have been appointed the Trustee of a trust in carrying out their fiduciary duties. At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, we can also assist you, if you are the beneficiary of a trust or an estate to ensure that your rights are protected. We offer each client legal knowledge, compassion, and the highest level of personal service. Feel free to call our office today or complete the contact form on our website to learn more about our services.