If you die without a will in New Jersey you are said to die “intestate”. If you die intestate, your probate assets are divided up under the New Jersey Intestate Rules. These rules can easily be avoided by writing a will, but if you do not have a will, the Intestacy Rules are in place to clearly state who inherits your probate property in order to avoid conflict.
In your case, you are an unmarried person with children. If all of your biological children are living when you die, they will equally divide up your probate estate. Your step-children will inherit nothing through the intestacy rules unless you legally adopted them as your own children.
Remember, these rules apply to the “probate assets”. Many of your assets might pass outside of probate, such as:
- Life Insurance
- Transfer on Death Accounts
- Joint Accounts
At your death these non-probate assets pass to the person you have named as the beneficiary or joint owner. If you have named your step-children as a beneficiary or a joint owner of one of your assets then your step-children will receive something at your death.
Whenever there is a blended family, such as yours, it is a good idea to have a will that plainly states your wishes. This can reduce the chances of conflict, confusion, suspicion and bad feelings between your children and step-children following your death.
If you have questions about estate planning or probate in Camden County, New Jersey, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
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