Probate is the process of handling your estate after you die. Many people have negative feelings about it because of the time it can take and the expense involved.

However, probate does not have to be an ordeal. The process is a little different in every state, and New Jersey has a user-friendly probate process. Here are some of the most important steps.

1. Opening the estate

When you make out your will, you can name the person whom you wish to become the executor and take charge of your estate after you die. When that happens, the surrogate of the county where you live receives the will. The surrogate identifies the executor and issues letters testamentary. It is a straightforward process that typically requires no other court involvement beyond that point.

Things become more complicated if you do not have a will. Then the court has to appoint someone to be the administrator of your estate.

2. Reading the will

Once your executor receives the will, he or she should read it carefully. The American Bar Association points out how important it is that the executor understands the provisions of the will and the directions you provide to him or her in it.

3. Marshal assets

Once your executor has read the will, the next job is to marshal the assets. In other words, he or she must take control of all your property described in your will as part of your estate.

When your executor has marshaled the assets of the estate, he or she is in a position to carry out the remaining steps in the probate process, such as handling expenses and debts and funding the bequests that you make to your heirs. The last step in the process is closing the estate.