Moorestown Probate Lawyer
Moorestown Probate Lawyer
Probate is the judge-supervised process of administering a person’s estate after death. For some estates, this is a simple process. If the deceased died with no outstanding debts and few assets, then the personal representative can complete the process in months. Other estates, however, are much more complicated and present difficult legal issues which can trip up the unwary.
Scott Counsel, PC is a Moorestown probate law firm which can represent you during probate. Please schedule a consultation with our firm to discuss any questions you have.
Virtually everyone has some assets that they own at death, which make up the estate. Probate will be the process of distributing them after all creditor claims are paid. The personal representative takes charge of the process, which is overseen by the local Surrogate court.
A will should identify a person to serve as executor. If there is no will, then the Surrogate court will appoint someone, usually a close family member to serve as administrator. The personal representative (executor or administrator) usually submits the will to the Surrogate court before collecting estate assets and giving notice of death to the deceased’s creditors.
Often, the deceased has at least a few debts, even small bills like utilities or cell phone service which must be paid from the estate. Other creditors could submit claims for debts like credit card balances or personal loans. The personal representative must check to see if a claim is valid and either pay or reject it.
Only after all creditor claims are paid can the representative distribute assets, typically according to the will. If there is no will, then the estate gets distributed according to New Jersey’s intestacy laws.
Legal Issues in Probate
Although it sounds simple, many issues can arise in probate, beginning almost immediately after your loved one’s death:
- Will contests. Heirs might claim the will is not effective because it was procured by fraud, coercion, or duress. Alternatively, they might claim the deceased lacked capacity when making the will.
- Challenges to the personal representative. Family members might squabble about who is appointed. In some situations, the person named in the will has died or elects not to serve. Once appointed, the executor owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries, such as duties of prudence and loyalty. Family members might suspect the representative is stealing assets or favoring one family member.
- Difficulties collecting estate assets. The deceased might have lent assets to others, and the personal representative could struggle to get them back, sometimes even needing to bring a lawsuit to recover estate assets.
- Problems safekeeping assets. Probate could go on for a year or more. During that time, the executor must ensure that estate assets don’t decline in value. This might require buying insurance, investing the assets prudently, or simply storing them in a safe manner.
- Disputes involving claims against the estate. Some creditors might submit fraudulent or inflated claims which could result in litigation in court before an estate can be probated.
The above are only some of the disputes we see every day in Surrogate court. Even in a relatively smooth probate, the personal representative often has questions that they need help with.
How a Moorestown Probate Attorney Can Help You
Scott Counsel has ample experience in all types of probate matters. We can provide legal advice in a confidential setting and/or represent parties in litigation in court:
The personal representative (executor or administrator). We provide many services to personal representatives:
- Help them defend the validity of a will
- Litigate a claim against the estate
- Defend against an alleged breach of their fiduciary duties
- Advise on how to keep assets safe
- File a lawsuit to reclaim estate assets
- Liquidate assets if there is insufficient cash to pay estate debts
- File tax returns
We can advise on how to fulfill your obligation to all beneficiaries when making difficult decisions like those above.
Disappointed heirs. It is legal to disinherit a child in New Jersey—much to the anger of children and other heirs who were expecting to receive something in a will. Unsurprisingly, they bring a challenge to the will. Some challenges are frivolous, but other claims have merit. For example, some wills are written when the deceased was infirm and dependent on a caregiver. Often, the will gets rewritten to favor the caregiver—a clear sign of coercion. We can help disappointed heirs litigate will disputes and negotiate settlements.
Beneficiaries. Someone given assets in a will is a beneficiary. We can help them monitor the personal representative to ensure he or she is following the law. We can also file a lawsuit if warranted against the personal representative for violating their duties.
Creditors. If you have made a claim on the estate, it should be paid. Some estates wrongly reject a claim or offer only pennies on the dollar, which requires a probate lawsuit.
The Right Probate Attorney Can Save the Estate Money
Some families hesitate to hire an attorney, instead trying to probate an estate on their own. Although this is sometimes possible, there are many risks. In the long run, families can save money by hiring an experienced Moorestown probate attorney as quickly as possible.
We have seen improperly handled disputes eat away at the value of the estate. What could be a minor disagreement could balloon into a major lawsuit costing the estate tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. By contrast, expert legal advice upfront can help the estate retain its value.
A personal representative who mishandles the estate could also face liability. Being an executor or administrator is often a thankless job. It is much harder than people imagine. Although executors can receive a commission for their service, the risk of personal liability is high if they fail to follow the law. Paying for seasoned legal advice can help you avoid a lengthy lawsuit.
Contact Our Moorestown Probate Lawyer at Scott Counsel
Probate shouldn’t break the bank or cause stress. Instead, let our legal team provide the experienced legal advice you need to protect your rights. Call (856) 281-3131 today to schedule a confidential meeting with our law firm.
– When my son, who has Cystic Fibrosis and CF related diabetes, was suddenly and unexpectedly removed from his Medicaid program, we were devastated and frightened not knowing where we would get the resources to pay for his extremely high priced prescriptions. Justin was the attorney who handled our case. From the very beginning, he proved to be very thorough and experienced with navigating the process of reversing the Medicaid decision. However, it was his apparent kind, caring nature that made us feel the most at ease. Justin was successful in securing a continuation of benefits for my son, and we are extremely grateful for having his expertise during this most stressful ongoing process. Thank you, Justin!
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