New Jersey Personal Representative Bond: A Comprehensive Guide
At a Glance:
- Average Cost: Calculated based on a tiered structure
- Bond Amount: Determined on a case-by-case basis (more on this later)
- Who Needs it: Certain personal representatives handling the estates of deceased New Jersey residents or property owners
- Purpose: To ensure estate beneficiaries and creditors receive compensation if the personal representative mishandles the estate’s assets
- Who Regulates Personal Representatives in New Jersey: The superior court of the county where the deceased individual resided or had property
New Jersey statute 3B:10-19 requires all personal representatives of an estate to be appointed by a court before assuming their fiduciary duties. The New Jersey legislature enacted the appointment requirement to ensure that personal representatives do not mismanage the estate’s assets. To provide financial security for the enforcement of this requirement, the court may require the personal representative to purchase a probate surety bond to be eligible for appointment.
What is the Purpose of the New Jersey Personal Representative Bond?
New Jersey requires personal representatives to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to being appointed as a fiduciary over an estate’s assets. The bond ensures that the estate’s beneficiaries and creditors will receive compensation for financial harm if the personal representative fails to abide by the regulations outlined in New Jersey Statutes 3B:15-1 through 3B:15-6. Specifically, the bond protects beneficiaries and creditors if the personal representative engages in any acts of fraud or mismanages the estate’s assets. In short, the bond is a type of insurance that protects the estate’s beneficiaries and creditors if the personal representative violates their fiduciary duties.
How Can an Insurance Agent Obtain a New Jersey Personal Representative Surety Bond?
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How is the Bond Amount Determined?
New Jersey Statute 3B:15-1 grants the court the authority to determine the required bond amount on a case-by-case basis. However, the court must take into consideration the estate’s value as well as the extent of the personal representative’s authority when setting the amount. Additionally, the personal representative may petition the court the reduce the bond amount or waive the requirement altogether.
What are the Underwriting Requirements for the New Jersey Personal Representative Bond?
Most surety companies will examine the following factors when determining eligibility for the New Jersey Personal Representative bond:
- Personal representative’s credit history (not considered for bonds with limits less than $25,000)
- Whether or not the estate has an attorney (not considered for bonds with limits less than $25,000)
- How long the fiduciary appointment is for
- Whether or not the personal representative is replacing a prior fiduciary
- If the personal representative has ever committed a felony
- If there are disputes among the estate’s beneficiaries
- Whether or not there is any ongoing business in the estate
- If the bond is being required by a creditor
How Much Does the New Jersey Personal Representative Bond Cost?
Surety companies typically determine the premium rate for personal representative bonds based on a tiered structure. As a result, larger bond amounts will be charged a lower premium rate than smaller bonds.
The following table illustrates the pricing structure for the New Jersey Personal Representative bond:
$1,500,000 Personal Representative Bond Cost
|Bond Amount||Premium Rate||Total Bond Cost|
|Total cost of $4,715|
Who is Required to Purchase the New Jersey Personal Representative Bond?
New Jersey requires personal representatives to purchase a surety bond in the following situations:
- If they are not nominated in the will
- If they are being appointed in place of an individual nominated in the will
- When their office includes any form of administration
- Not including administration ad litem (for the purposes of a lawsuit) or if the personal representative is the deceased individual’s suriving spouse and is entitled to the entire estate
- If they do not live in New Jersey
- Unless the will waives the bond requirement
- If they are an additional or substitute personal representative
- If the deceased individual is not a resident of Jew Jersey
- If they move out of state
- If the will requires one
- If any interested person believes the deceased individual’s property to be unsafe, insecure, or in danger of being wasted and petitions the court to require one
To paraphrase New Jersey Statute 3B:1-2, a personal representative is a court-appointed fiduciary responsible for administering a deceased individual’s estate. Personal representatives are referred to as executors if the deceased individual nominated them in their will (testate), and administrators if they were not nominated if no will exists (intestate).
How do Personal Representatives Become Appointed in New Jersey?
Personal representatives in New Jersey must navigate several steps to become court-appointed fiduciaries. Below are the general guidelines, but applicants should refer to the state’s probate statutes for details on the process.
Step 1 – Determine Priority
Priority to serve as a personal representative is granted in the following order:
- Persons nominated in the will
- The surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Any other heir
- Any qualified person if no heir applies within 40 days of the deceased individual’s death
Step 2 – Hire an Attorney
Although not explicitly required, it is highly recommended that personal representatives hire an attorney to assist with the probate process.
Step 3 – Contact the County Surrogate
Personal representatives must contact the surrogate of the county with jurisdiction over the deceased individual’s estate. The surrogate will walk the personal representative through the appointment process, provide them with all required forms, and answer any questions they may have. Any interested person may object to the personal representative’s appointment or the validity of the deceased individual’s will. If an objection occurs, the case will be heard in the county’s superior court.
*Estates worth less than $20,000 and have no surviving spouse or domestic partner need not undergo a formal probate process and instead can be administered via an affidavit.
Step 4 – Purchase a Surety Bond
Unless otherwise exempt, personal representatives must purchase and maintain a surety bond (limits outlined above).
How do New Jersey Personal Representatives File Their Bonds?
Personal representatives should submit their completed bond forms, including the power of attorney, to the county surrogate with jurisdiction over the estate.
The surety bond requires signatures from the company that issues the bond and the personal representative. The surety company should include the following information on the bond form:
- Legal name of the entity/individual(s) buying the bond
- Surety company’s name
- Bond amount
- Date the bond goes into effect
- Name of the deceased individual
What can New Jersey Personal Representatives do to Avoid Claims Made Against Their Bonds?
To avoid claims against their bonds, personal representatives in New Jersey must ensure that they:
- File with the court a complete inventory and appraisal of the estate within the time allotted
- Faithfully fulfill their duties
- Make a true account of their administration activities to the court
- Deliver all surplus property to distributees (entitled to property) of the estate
- Return their letters of administration to the court if a will is found