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Office of the Surrogate


Glossary of Probate Terms

Administrator/rix - a person appointed by the Surrogate to take charge of the Estate of a decedent who dies without a Will. Also called a personal representative.

Beneficiary - a person designated to receive money, property or benefits in a Will.

Bequest - a gift of personal property by a Will.

Bequeath - to dispose of personal property through a Will.

Caveat - a formal notice given by someone to prevent the proving of a Will or the grant of administration of an Estate.

Codicil - an addition or supplement to an original Will that adds to or deletes only part of a Will.

Decedent - a deceased person.

Devise - a gift of real estate through a Will.

Domestic Partnership - Two people that are not related and 18 years of age and of the same sex or of the opposite sex age 62 years or older.

Estate - real and personal property and possessions; everything a person owns.

Executor/rix - a person named in a Will to carry out the wishes and intentions of the Will, also known as a personal representative.

Guardian - a person who has been qualified and/or been appointed as a guardian of the person and/or property of a minor or adult mental incompetent.

Heir - a person who inherits property from a deceased person.

Intestate - when a person dies without a Will.

Joint tenants with rights of survivorship - two or more persons owning real estate where the survivor will inherit the property.

Legatee - a person who receives a gift under a Will.

Personal property - intangible property, such as stocks, bonds, or bank accounts and tangible property such as jewelry, furniture or an automobile.

Probate - official proof of authenticity or validity of a Will.

Real property - land and/or buildings.

Surrogate - the elected county official who oversees probate in the State of New Jersey.

Tenants in Common - two or more persons owning undivided individual interests in a single piece of property.

Tenants by the Entirety - real property owned as husband and wife with rights of survivorship.

Testator/rix - the person who makes a Will.

Trust - property owned or managed by a person for another.

Trustee - person holding property in trust for another.

Will - a legal declaration of the manner in which a person wishes Estate to be divided after death.

Witness - person who observes the signing of a Will and/or codicil and attests to the signature of the Testator/rix.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I begin the probate procedure?
2. Is the probate process expensive?
3. Who has the right to be appointed when an individual dies without a Will?
4. If an individual dies without a Will, what is the surviving spouse or domestic partner entitled to?
5a. What is the procedure in a small estate without a Will or surviving spouse or domestic partner?
5b. What is the procedure in a small estate without a Will when there is a surviving spouse or domestic partner?
6. Why do I need to post a bond if someone dies without a will?
7. How does the surviving spouse or domestic partner access joint bank accounts or certificates of deposit?
8. How may Surrogates certificates will I need?
9. Do I need to file a formal accounting if I represent an estate?
10. How do I prove that a distribution or legacies were paid?
11. What are the Surrogate certificates used for?
12. Am I entitled to compensation as a personal representative?
13. What is the personal representative required to do?
14. Am I, as a personal representative, protected against creditors of the Estate?
15. Is it necessary to send copies of the Will to the beneficiaries?
16. What is done with a safe deposit box?
17. Where does the personal representative obtain the funds to pay the debts?
18. How soon must state inheritance taxes be paid?
19. Are unpaid inheritance taxes a lien on real and personal property?
20. How can I change my Will?
21. Can I disinherit my spouse, domestic partner, children or family under my Will?
22. Do I need an attorney to prepare my Will or represent an estate?
23. Can the probate process be stopped in the Surrogate's office?
24. Can I challenge a probate after it is completed?