Many married couples in New Jersey and elsewhere jointly own all of their assets. This means that if one spouse dies, the other will retain total control of the property. If this is how it works, it is understandable that the surviving spouse would want to know if he or she has to go through the probate process in order to officially close out the estate.
Recently, a man in another state asked this very question. His wife passed 18 years ago. Their assets were jointly owned, and her will named him as the sole beneficiary, so he never went through the formal probate process. He wanted to know if that was going to come back to hurt him down the line.
Some may say that failing to probate an estate will cause significant problems for a surviving spouse. In this man’s case, however, it may not. When assets are jointly owned, all he likely needs is his wife’s death certificate to prove he is now the sole owner of the property.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about how jointly owned assets are passed on after a spouse dies. Those in New Jersey who have questions about the probate process and if it is necessary following the death of a spouse can turn to an experienced estate administration attorney for guidance on the matter. Legal counsel will have the ability to answer any questions and help the client update his or her own estate plan to address the changes in property ownership.