Can You Avoid Probating a Last Will in New Jersey When the Estate is Small and of Minor Value?

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Probate Attorney

In our office we have an estate where the surviving spouse has died. In working on this estate we find that the deceased wife had Prudential stock in her name valued at $1,000. That’s it, $1,000. The question raised was, isn’t there any way to avoid probating her will for such a small amount? In some states the estate representative can file for a waiver of probate for a small estate, but in New Jersey most financial institutions, banks, etc., want a short form certificate from the surrogate’s office before they will transfer and/or sell any securities or transfer any accounts under their custody.

For reasons I can’t understand NJ has only a limited small estate probate exception.

Under NJSA 3B:10-3; Only when the total value of all real and personal property of the estate of an intestate will not exceed $50,000 and the surviving spouse will be entitled to all of those assets, probate can be avoided. But in the case of our deceased spouse (and others) the exception won’t apply because (1)the decedent had a last will and (2)the surviving spouse is the decedent. As a result we must probate the will. What a waste!

To discuss your NJ Probate matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.