Sometimes probate takes a long period to complete. A 2018 survey by Estate Exec found that the average time for probate lasts for 16 months. However, New Jersey offers a way to expedite the distribution of some estates through more convenient methods.
Wealthy or complicated estates need time to process. However, this is not the case for many estates of lesser value. State law allows surviving family members to close out a small estate without a formal probate proceeding by using one of the following procedures.
An affidavit available to spouses
In some instances, a simple probate process is available to a surviving spouse, civil union partner or domestic partner. However, the deceased person must have left an estate with a value of no more than $50,000, including real and personal assets.
If this is the case, the surviving spouse or partner may fill out and file an affidavit. This form requires the survivor to list the assets, their values, and the names of the beneficiaries. Once the court approves the affidavit, the distribution of the assets can begin.
An affidavit available to other heirs
It is possible that a decedent does not leave a surviving spouse or partner. However, it may still be possible for another surviving relative to file an affidavit, but it requires the value of the estate to not exceed $20,000.
For this affidavit to work, the family member must have the consent of any other heirs involved. The affidavit also has to name all of the heirs, establish their relationships and state their places of residence. If the court approves, the estate assets will be dispersed among the beneficiaries.
Understanding these options will help you understand if the estate of a loved one qualifies for one of these methods. You might even want to plan ahead if you think your estate will only retain assets of minor value after your death.