Perhaps the most important element of estate planning in Ocean County is actually choosing to do it. It is a decision that many American adults have yet to make (indeed, according to research information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, 6 in 10 have no estate planning documents). Those who die without a will force their estates to become subject to intestate succession. This is a state-controlled process in which the dispersal of one’s assets are regulated by the law (and not the wishes of their heirs).
New Jersey’s intestate succession regulations can be found in Section 3B.5 of the state’s General Statutes. According to the law, one’s surviving spouse would inherit the entire amount of their intestate estate if a decedent has no surviving descendants (or if their surviving descendants are also the direct descendants of the surviving spouse). If one or more of one’s descendants are not those of the surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse also has descendants that are not related to the decedent, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first 25 percent of the estate’s assets (not be less than $50,000 or greater than $200,000), plus 50 percent of the remaining amount of the estate. They would also be entitled to the first 25 percent if the decedent is survived by their parents (but no descendants). Their entitlement to the remaining amount of the estate would then increase to 75 percent.
If one has no spouse (or domestic partner), their intestate estate would pass in the following order:
- Next of kin
One should also remember that intestate succession may still come into play even if one has a will. Any assets or properties whose dispersal is not addressed in a will become subject to the process.