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RayAnswers, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
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Experience:  Texas lawyer for 30 years in Estate law
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My wife passed away in July in New Jersey. She owned a boat

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My wife passed away in July in New Jersey. She owned a boat with just her name on the title. Can I transfer title to my name? I probated the will & listed on a worksheet supplied by the surrogate that the boat was one of her assets. The value of the boat is more than any one of her individual ( credit card ) debts. She had a bank account in her name which I transferred to an estate account. I am paying off all hospital & doctor bills right now through that account. Once that account is dissolved of any money, can the creditors try to sieze the boat, even though the amounts of those accounts are far less than the value of the boat ( her last asset ). The house is in my name. My main concern is whether I can change title to the boat & eventually sell it myself. Thank You.

Thanks for your question and good morning.

You are going to have to sell the boat here if you have outstanding creditors of your wife.Under NJ las as the personal representative you have a duty here unfortunately to pay such claims.

And yes if you were to transfer the boat to yourself to avoid creditors you would then have personal liability for the violation of the fiduciary duty to pay claims and liquidate the estate.

The court here would have to approve your inventory and list of paid claims here.If you were able to pay these off from funds on hand then you could transfer the boat to yourself if you are legal heir under will.Since there are not sufficient funds in the estate and debts remain the boat gets sold and proceeds applied to the creditors.


If you as personal representative have completed a review of the estate, and it appears there may not be enough funds to pay all valid creditors, a document called a Notice to Limit Creditors may be filed with the Surrogate’s office.


This is a notice for creditors to present their claims to the estate within six months from the date of the order/notice. Under N.J law the required notice is one of general publication in a local newspaper and by ordinary mail to the last known address of the creditor.


By following the law here you avoid any personal liability.


Here below is the process.

Law about noticing creditors..



It may be advisable for you the Executor to obtain an order requiring public notice to creditors of the decedent requiring then to present their claims within six months from the time of the order. This notice is published by the Surrogate. The Executor may then act in reliance upon the belief that all creditors have presented claims within that period.


At this point if the credit cards accounts do not file claims then you pay the ones you have and then you could distribute the boat to yourself as heir here with court approval.If the creditors here exceed the money you have on hand you would have to sell the boat here to pay creditors to avoid personal liability.



Please let me know if you have more follow up.Thanks for letting me be off assistance today.


[ 4:80-8. Notice to Creditors to Present Claims ]
[If an order is entered under N.J.S.A. 3B:22-4, a notice stating the entry, the date thereof, on whose application, and what directions are thereby given, shall be mailed by the personal representative to each creditor of the estate of which the personal representative knows or which can be ascertained by reasonable inquiry, by ordinary mail directed to the creditor's last known address, and shall be published once in such one or more newspapers of this State as may be directed in the order, the publication to be made within 20 days after the date of the order. Such further notice shall be given as the court directs.]

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