Probate During a Pandemic | Fendrick Morgan Law

Probating During the Pandemic: What to Do After a Loved One Has Passed

Sadly, more than 400,000 Americans have now lost their lives to COVID-19. Of course, our community has not been beyond the virus’s reach. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have heard from many clients regarding the death of a loved one. The loss of a loved one is difficult enough under ordinary, non-global pandemic, times. Unfortunately, during this time of COVID—like so many other things in our lives—the estate administration process has been complicated.

Pre-COVID, following a loved one’s death, the person named as Executor in the decedent’s Will could make an appointment with the County Surrogate’s Office (the Register of Wills, if in Pennsylvania) to be authorized to act on behalf of the estate. The named Executor would bring the original Will and an original death certificate to the appointment, and leave that appointment with Letters Testamentary, authorizing the Executor to act on behalf of the estate. At that time, the estate administration could officially begin. For a loved one dying without a Will, the process was slightly more involved, but still relatively streamlined.

Now, many of the estate administration protocols have been pushed aside in favor of methods that do not allow for physical, in-person contact. The loss of that personal contact with a representative from the Surrogate’s Office is significant. The representatives in those offices are terrific resources. They are tremendously helpful and are generally wonderful hand-holders. But, now, our named Executors and family members (where there is no Will) are left to figure out how to probate from afar, generally through the mail (as slow as that may be right now). In some cases, videoconferencing and securing affidavits and notarizations from afar are necessary. It can be a very intimidating process.

Although some of the New Jersey Surrogate’s Offices are beginning to accept in-person appointments on a limited basis, appointments are hard to come by and drop-ins are not welcome.

In order to probate a Will through the mail, specific forms need to be executed, certain documentation needs to be provided, and the probate fee needs to be paid. Certainly, nothing is happening fast these days. The probate process is a worrisome time for the family because, until the Executor is officially appointed, no one has access to the decedent’s bank accounts to pay outstanding bills and expenses. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the process is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

At Fendrick Morgan, LLC, we have had to quickly adapt and become familiar with the new (and ever-evolving) probate procedures. We have the necessary forms, can calculate the probate fee, and we are able to ensure that all of the proper documentation is provided to the Surrogate’s Office (or Register of Wills) in a timely and efficient manner. Ensuring a smooth probate process is a weight off of a family’s shoulders during an already trying and emotional time. Once the Executor has been appointed, our office can also assist with all other aspects of an estate administration. The process can be overwhelming even in the best of times. We are here, and we are happy to help.

If you are designated as the Executor of an estate for a loved one who has passed away, or if you have lost a loved one and they passed without a Will, we can help navigate through the estate administration process from start to finish. In such case, please call our office at 856-489-8388, or visit us on the web, to schedule an appointment. We are here to help.

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