With few exceptions, the estate of a person who dies owning property in his or her name cannot be legally distributed without first going through probate.

Probate is a judicial proceeding in which Wills are interpreted and assets are distributed following an individual’s death.

Probate operates either formally, with court supervision, or informally, without court supervision. Whether formal or informal, the first duty of the probate court is to determine whether the decedent left a valid will. If the decedent left a valid will, the probate court oversees the process of settling the estate according to the terms of the will. If the decedent did not leave a will or if the probate court determines the will is invalid, the probate court applies New Jersey state’s inheritance laws to determine the property estate distribution.

Among the issues that are dealt with in probate are distribution of estate assets, resolution of contested claims by creditors, determining what assets are subject to estate administration, determining a decedent’s true heirs and supervising the transfer of assets to beneficiaries of the estate.

Often, an experienced professional is necessary to ensure that an estate’s assets are protected and properly distributed.

Sandra Woolcock concentrates her practice in trusts and estates, wealth transfer, estate planning, estate administration and probate, guardianship, special needs and dispute resolution arising from complex New Jersey Wills. She seeks to maximize the goals of estate owners including limiting tax liability, avoiding or minimizing probate court involvement, and in anticipating and planning for issues affecting estate transfer.

Ms. Woolcock is also an experienced real estate lawyer representing both buyers and sellers in New Jersey. She has over seventeen years of experience as a practicing New Jersey lawyer. Prior to opening her office, she worked for one of the largest insurance companies in the United States where she was responsible for estate and tax planning, asset management and trust services.