The death of a loved one in New Jersey necessitates a number of different actions, with the administration of their estate chief among them. You might think that said administration becomes much easier if and when you learn that they did not prepare a will. You might assume in such a scenario that the decision regarding the dispersal of their assets then falls to you (and the decedent’s other presumptive heirs).
Indeed, many come to us here at Campbell & Pruchnik, LLC with the same assumption. Yet that is not the case. If your family member or friend died intestate (without a will), then it is the state that determines the administration of their estate.
The surviving spouse’s share of an intestate estate
You can find New Jersey’s intestate succession guidelines in Section 3b.5 of the state’s statutes. These state that the surviving spouse of one who dies intestate receives their entire estate if the decedent had to lineal descendants and the spouse themselves do not have descendants that are not also the issue of the decedent. If any of the aforementioned scenarios exist, the surviving spouse receives the first 25% of the estate (at no less than $50,000 but no more than $200,000), and then 50% of the remaining balance. That remaining interest increases to 75% if the decedent had no descendants, but has a surviving parent.
Intestate succession if there is no spouse
If your loved one who died intestate had no spouse, their estate descends in the following order:
- Direct descendants
- Maternal and paternal kindred
You may notice no allowances exist for any non-relatives. Only designations in estate instruments bequeathing assets to such parties entitle them to any portion of the estate.
You can find more information on estate administration throughout our site.