The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, New Jersey offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, your loved ones might be able to use a procedure called "small estate administration" to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle.
You can use small estate administration only if the deceased person didn't leave behind a will (in other words, they died intestate).
In addition, the value of the estate (all of the property the deceased person left behind) can't exceed:
To use small estate administration, the inheritor files an affidavit (sworn statement) with the court, and then uses the affidavit to claim the deceased person's property.
The inheritor simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The inheritor will usually also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution releases the asset. This process is much simpler than regular probate, and it doesn't require any formal proceedings.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo) or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).
For more on New Jersey estate planning issues, see our section on New Jersey Estate Planning.