Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Jersey Probate & Estate Litigation: “When Will I Receive My Inheritance?”

In administering an estate, beneficiaries of the estate will routinely ask – “when will I receive my inheritance?” The answer, of course, is – “it depends.”

Ordinarily, it will take approximately one year to complete the administration process and, in fact, distribution of an intestate’s property is not supposed to be made prior to the expiration of one year after the granting of administration. Ideally, administration can be completed within this time; however, the exact timeframe is unpredictable based upon numerous factors including the disposition of any real estate, tax issues that may arise, issues with creditors of the estate, and the degree to which any litigation ensues. For example, in the event that an Estate Tax Return must be filed, or judicial intervention becomes necessary, an administration period of two years or more may be necessary.

Pursuant to the New Jersey Probate Code, an executor or administrator is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate “as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.” Furthermore, an executor or administrator “shall proceed expeditiously with the settlement and distribution of a decedent’s estate and do so without adjudication, order, or direction of a court, but he may invoke the jurisdiction of a court, in proceedings authorized by law to resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.”

While it is necessary for the fiduciary to proceed expeditiously, it is essential that he or she observe the requisite standard of care; specifically, that he or she “observe the standards in dealing with the estate assets that would be observed by a prudent man dealing with the property of another.” Also, if the personal representative has special skills or is named personal representative on the basis of representations of special skills or expertise, he or she is under a duty to use those special skills or that expertise. In the event that the fiduciary fails to proceed expeditiously, or fails to properly administer the estate, action to compel settlement of the estate or to remove the fiduciary may be necessary.

Because estate administration, estate litigation, and Will contests require particular knowledge, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney if you have questions regarding a loved one’s or your own Last Will and Testament, your or your loved one’s Power of Attorney, suspicions of undue influence, the probate process, administration of an estate or trust, fiduciary obligations, preparation of a formal or informal accounting, refunding bonds and releases, and the procedures for removing an executor or administrator from office. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.

Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.  –  All Rights Reserved

Probate / Estate Practice Areas: Will contests and disputes, caveats, the elective share, undue influence claims, Power of Attorney abuse and inter vivos gift disputes, drafting of Wills and Trusts, appointment and removal of fiduciaries, probate procedures, intestacy, fiduciary duties and obligations, fiduciary accountings and exceptions, fiduciary compensation, marshaling of assets, actions to compel an inventory, actions to remove a fiduciary, insolvency petitions, ejectment and eviction from estate or trust property, Refunding Bonds and Releases, New Jersey Transfer Inheritance Tax (IT-R), New Jersey Estate Tax (IT-Estate)

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