Estate Administration Checklist

Estate Administration Checklist for New Jersey

When a loved one passes away in New Jersey, their estate must go through the probate process if they owned assets solely in their name that exceeded $50,000 in value. The probate process can seem overwhelming, but having a comprehensive checklist can help executors and administrators properly wind up the estate.

This estate administration checklist outlines the critical steps in administering an estate in New Jersey.

Initial Tasks

  • Locate the original will and obtain several certified copies.
  • Make copies of the death certificate (you’ll need multiple original copies)
  • Provide notice of death to Social Security, employers, banks, etc.
  • Obtain a tax identification number for the estate
  • Open an estate checking account to pay expenses
  • Take possession of and protect the decedent’s assets
  • Cancel any credit cards, memberships, subscriptions etc.
  • Forward mail to the executor’s address

Retain Experienced Professionals

  • Hire an experienced New Jersey probate attorney
  • Hire an accountant to handle tax filings
  • Consider a financial advisor or estate professional

File Probate Paperwork & Provide Notices

  • Determine if probate is required based on asset values
  • File the will and death certificate with the Surrogate’s Court
  • Request the formal appointment of an executor/administrator
  • Publish a notice to creditors in newspapers
  • Notify beneficiaries named in the will
  • Notify the decedent’s heirs at law

Marshaling the Assets

  • Locate and make a detailed inventory of all assets
  • Retitle assets as needed to name the estate as owner
  • Transfer financial accounts to the estate account
  • Open a safe deposit box with appropriate witnesses
  • Obtain date-of-death values for assets
  • Apply for life insurance, annuity and retirement benefits
  • Deal with the decedent’s business interests or entities

Pay Debts & Taxes

Estate Administration Checklist
  • Notify all creditors of the death
  • Allow valid claims from creditors
  • Research if estate or inheritance taxes are owed
  • Pay priority claims like taxes and secured debt
  • File tax returns for the estate and decedent
  • Consider portability or disclaimer options for the estate tax exemption

Administer the Estate

  • Determine if any assets should be liquidated
  • Make sure to manage, protect and insure estate assets properly
  • Review life insurance, beneficiary designations, etc.
  • Maintain detailed accounting of all transactions
  • Manage any income earned during administration
  • Handle lawsuits and resolve disputes
  • Pay executor/administrator compensation if entitled

Distribute Assets & Close Estate

  • Obtain judicial approval or releases if required
  • Prepare asset transfers to beneficiaries
  • Distribute specific bequests according to the will
  • Distribute remaining assets per the will or intestacy law
  • File final accounting with the court
  • Obtain tax releases & judicial discharge
  • Close the estate checking account

While this estate administration checklist may seem exhaustive, it covers many significant responsibilities and duties when administering an estate in New Jersey through the probate court process.

Some additional tips for executors in New Jersey:

  • Remain unbiased: You have a duty to all beneficiaries
  • Stay organized: Keep a detailed paper trail
  • Meet all deadlines: Avoid future hassles and liabilities
  • Understand estate taxes: Federal and NJ estate taxes may apply
  • Handle real estate properly: You may need court approval to sell or transfer property
  • Don’t commingle assets: Keep estate assets separate from personal assets

With real estate, multiple beneficiaries, taxable estates and other complexities, working with an experienced New Jersey probate attorney is highly recommended. An attorney can ensure that all steps are correctly handled and that all legal requirements are satisfied.

Even a simple estate in New Jersey requires following detailed procedures with the Surrogate’s Court. Maintaining a comprehensive checklist and hiring qualified professionals can make the estate administration smoother.

Familiar sources of delay include:

  • Missing or unclear will provisions
  • Beneficiary disputes and objections
  • Asset distribution disagreements
  • Creditor claims against the estate
  • Tax issues or audit risks

With patience, organization and professional guidance, executors in New Jersey can adequately wind up the decedent’s affairs and distribute assets correctly to the heirs and beneficiaries. No two estates are alike, so a customized checklist that is custom to your situation is advisable.

Following a Well-Designed Estate Administration Checklist

The probate court wants to see that you have marshaled all assets, paid valid claims, managed the estate properly, and made the final distributions correctly. Following a well-designed estate administration checklist is crucial for legally closing the estate while protecting your liability.

To help you navigate the NJ Estate Administration Checklist, contact the NJ Executor or provide professional advice and guidance.

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