Vercammen & Associates
Wills and New Probate Law of NJ
Compiled By Kenneth Vercammen, Esq. (c) 2007-2008
The New Probate Statute of NJ revised various sections of the New Jersey law on Wills and estates. The Law makes a number of substantial changes to the provisions governing the administration of estates and trusts in New Jersey.
IF YOU HAVE NO WILL:
If you leave no Will or your Will is declared invalid because it was improperly prepared or is not admissible to probate:
* State law determines who gets assets, not you
* Additional expenses will be incurred and extra work will be required to qualify an administrator
* Judge determines who gets custody of your children
* Possible additional State inheritance taxes and Federal estate taxes
* If you have no spouse or close relatives the State may take your property
* The procedure to distribute assets becomes more complicated-and the law makes no exceptions for persons in unusual need or for your own wishes.
* It may also cause fights and lawsuits within your family
When loved ones are grieving and dealing with death, they shouldn't be overwhelmed with Financial concerns. Careful estate planning helps take care of that.
The Uniform Probate Code attempts to bring greater uniformity to the rules governing testamentary and non-testamentary transfers in response to the significant number of non-testamentary transfers that occur at the time of the decedent's death. For example, a new term, "governing instrument" has been incorporated as a definition in the substitute to include deeds, trusts, insurance and annuity policies, POD (pay on death) accounts, securities registered in beneficiary form (TOD), pension, profit sharing, retirement and similar benefit plans, and other wealth transfer instruments.
The law also clarifies situations where writings that are intended as wills would be allowed, but requires that the burden of proof on the proponent would be by clear and convincing evidence.
The law provides that divorce or annulment of a marriage, under certain circumstances, would revoke not only provisions of the former spouse's will, but also non-probate transfers occurring by reason of the decedent's death to the former spouse.
The law expands the provisions requiring survival of a beneficiary by 120 hours to succeed to an interest of a decedent in non-probate transfers.
The law also makes substantial revisions to the laws governing intestate succession. [Dying without a Will] For example, the substitute provides that the intestate share of a surviving spouse would be 100% of the intestate estate where all of the surviving descendants of the decedent are also the descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other descendants. The surviving spouse would now be entitled to a larger share of the estate in the event that either a parent of the decedent survives a decedent who has no descendants, or there are descendants of the surviving spouse who are not descendants of the decedent. Finally, stepchildren of a decedent would be added as a final class of takers.
The law expands the law with respect to disinheritance of a person who criminally and intentionally kills the decedent to include revocation of non-testamentary dispositions.
The law consolidates the law concerning disclaimers of probate and non-probate property. The law clarifies that a fiduciary may, with court approval, disclaim any power or discretion held by such fiduciary, and may disclaim without court approval if the governing instrument so permits.
This law would also make some changes with regard to small estates. Under the old law, upon filing an affidavit with the surrogate the surviving spouse is entitled to the assets of an estate without administration if the assets do not exceed $10,000; similarly, in situations where there is no surviving spouse and the assets of the estate do not exceed $5,000, the heirs are entitled to the assets without administration if one of the heirs files an affidavit with the consent of the remaining heirs. This law amends N.J.S.A. 3B:10-3 and 3B:10-4 to increase these amounts to $20,000 and to $10,000, respectively.
Finally, the law expands the rules of construction formerly applicable only to Wills to other donative transfers.
The law provides a limited statute of limitations with respect to creditor claims against a decedent's estate.
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