Is Probate Administration Avoidable?

When a spouse or family member dies, the survivors are often at a loss about what they are required to do concerning the deceased loved one's estate. Do they need to go through the probate process? What if the person did not have a will?

At the law firm of McHugh & Macri in East Hanover, New Jersey, we have been guiding individuals and families through the probate process since 1978. We pioneered the "probate it yourself" program that offers limited legal representation to families that are willing to share administrative duties, at a significant savings on legal fees. We do not charge a percentage of the estate as a fee.

When Do I Need to Go Through Probate?

Just because a person had a will doesn't mean you are legally required to probate it. When spouses own property jointly, such as a house, cars, checking account or saving accounts, there is nothing to probate since those assets will pass by law to the joint owner. Retirement accounts and life insurance benefits also pass by law to the named beneficiary outside the will and without need to probate.

Caution! Although the probate process may be unnecessary, certain legal administrative steps must be taken when someone dies, regardless of the value of the estate, including potential inheritance or estate tax returns. Other steps you can do yourself, but you should always consult with an experienced probate lawyer to find out what needs to be done. If you need to file an inheritance or estate tax return or final income taxes, a seasoned probate attorney usually saves clients enough on taxes to pay their entire legal fee and leave a balance.

Probate And Estate Planning

A death is not the end of the estate planning process. For survivors, it is only the beginning. If you have inherited the estate of a spouse or parent, you must take certain planning steps to preserve those assets if you need future long-term care or need to shelter your inheritance from death taxes. Your will and other documents should be revised, especially if you are the surviving spouse.

Free Lawyer Consultation

For a free initial consultation with one of our certified elder law attorneys (CELA), call 973-577-6010 or fill out the fee-free contact form on this website.