When a New Jersey resident dies, the executor of the estate inventories the assets, pays debts, and also transfers property to the estate's beneficiaries, according to the terms of the will. Local surrogate courts handle the probate case, in which the court approves the will and oversees the handling of the estate. In this process, a Statement of Claim, or a document that asserts that the decedent's estate owes money, is a vital document that serves as the basis for clearing the estate's debts.
When the executor of an estate files an Application for Probate, along with a valid will in the deceased's county of residence, this opens a probate case. It's the court's job to approve the will and to ensure that the will meets all legal requirements. The court grants Letters Testamentary to the executor, giving him the authority to handle the estate. The executor then carries out the important task of notifying the creditors of the death and the probate case.
Order Limiting Creditors
Where an estate is relatively complex, or its debts are uncertain, an executor can petition the Surrogate's Court for an Order Limiting Creditors. This order gives anyone who has a claim on the estate a limited amount of time to notify the probate court of the claim. State law sets this deadline at six months from the date of the Order. A creditor filing a claim after this period would not be able to collect from the estate.
Statement of Claim
Creditors notify the executor and the court of their claims with a "statement of claim." This is a general term for a document that asserts that the estate of the deceased owes money. Statements of claim can cover unsecured or secured debts, and must give basic contact information for the creditor, the amount of the claim, and any associated information, such as account numbers and any liens on property securing the debt. The court approves the statement of claim, allowing the executor to pay the debt out of the estate assets.
After a valid statement of claim is filed and approved by the probate court, the executor is obligated to pay the debt out of the estate assets before transferring bequests to beneficiaries named in the will. The executor has the right to dispute the statement of claim; if he does so, then New Jersey law sets a deadline of three months for the creditor to file a response. If there the estate does not have sufficient assets to pay claims, then it is insolvent. The executor must file notice of this fact within nine months of the death of the decedent, and notify all creditors.
- Todd Warnock/Lifesize/Getty Images