Estates Without a Will
If you die without a will, or "intestate," your assets and estate are divided according to New Jersey's intestate laws. The Surrogate will determine whether or not an administrator needs to be appointed depending on the size of the estate.
Q) What happens if you do not have a will and your total assets are less than $20,000? If there is a surviving spouse and the property in the name of the decedent does not exceed
$50,000, an Affidavit of Surviving Spouse may be issued by the Surrogate allowing the husband
or wife to dispose of the property. When there is no spouse and the property does not exceed
$20,000, a close relative can be issued an affidavit to handle the disposition.
Q) What happens if you do not have a will and your total assets exceed $20,000/$50,000? In this situation, the Surrogate must appoint an administrator. Before someone is appointed
all other next of kin of the deceased must renounce their rights to be administrator. A surety
bond must be posted. The property is dispensed to the next of kin, according to the law.
However, in situations where there is no immediate family, your property may go to distant
relatives or ultimately revert to the State.
Q) How is my estate distributed without a will?
A) The laws of New Jersey state that:
- If you die leaving a spouse and children, who are also the children of the spouse, the spouse
receives 100% of the estate and no bond is required to be posted.
- If you die leaving spouse and children of a prior marriage, the spouse receives the first 25% (but not less than $50,000. and no more than $200,000.) plus 1/2 of the balance of the estate. The children of the decedent share the remaining balance of the estate. If a child predeceased the parent and that child produced grandchildren, the grandchildren share the balance that would have been their parents share.
- If you die leaving spouse and no children, but are survived by a parent(s) the spouse receives first 25% (but not less than $50,000. and no more than $200,000.) plus 3/4 of the balance. Surviving parent(s) receive all other assets of the estate.
- If you die leaving child or children but no spouse, children will take equally. Grandchildren will take their deceased parent's share.
- If you die leaving no spouse or children, parent(s) will take all. If no parent survives, brothers and sisters of decedent will take equally. If a sibling predeceased the decedent then the nieces and nephews will take their deceased parent's share.
- If you die leaving a spouse and children and the surviving spouse has children from a previous relationship, the spouse receives the first 25% (but no less than $50,000. and no more than $200,000.) children of the decedent share the remaining balance of the estate. The stepchildren do not share in the estate.
- If you die leaving a surviving spouse and only step-children, the surviving spouse receives 100% of the estate.
- If you die without a surviving spouse who had children from a previous relationship and you have no other descendents, such as parents, siblings, grandparents or other direct descendants, the step-children share 100% of the estate.
- THE DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP ACT: provides that domestic partners will have the same rights as married couples concerning inheritance, if the decedent does not leave a Will. It also provides that a domestic partner shall have the same rights as a surviving spouse with respect to the decedent's funeral and disposition of the decedents remains.
- The law provides that two persons who desire to become domestic partners may execute and file an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with the local registrar and meet all other requirements. Please contact our office for additional information and requirements.