Written by attorney Michael Dominick Bonfrisco

How Do You Probate a Will in NJ

Probate is Latin for "Prove the Will." The purpose of Probate is to change title from the person who died to those that inherit. In order to Probate an estate certain steps must be taken. A Will cannot be probated until ten (10) days following the death of the testator. If you are named the executor (also known as the personal representative) under the Will, then its your duty to manage and distribute the estate pursuant to the testators wishes. The first step is to probate the Will at the County Surrogate's Court. (The county where the testator was domiciled) To do this you must bring the following with you to the Surrogate's Court: (1) the original Will (which should not be unstapled or tampered with); (2) a certified copy of the death certificate (which you obtain from the municipality in which the testator died); (3) the full names and latest addresses of the closest surviving family and anyone named in the Will; and (4) a blank check, or a money order for probate fees. You should not fill in the amount of the check until your meeting at Surrogate's Court. Most Wills drafted in the past 30 years are "self proving." However, in the rare case where the Will is not "self-proving," then a person who signed the Will as a witness must also come to the Surrogate's Court to authenticate the Will. A "self-proving" Will is one where the testator and two witnesses sign the Will in front of a Notary Public or New Jersey attorney and the Will contains special language provided in New Jersey law (self-proving affidavits). If a Will is "self-proving," there is no need for a witness to the signing (execution) of the Will to come to the Surrogate's Court to authenticate his or her signature because the Notary Public or New Jersey attorney, before whom the witness signed the Will, effectively attests to the authenticity of the witnesses' signatures.

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