Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will In New Jersey
Most Recently Updated Sun. Sept. 10th, 2017
Probate Attorney, Tatyana Gleyzer.
From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will In New Jersey?
If you have a New Jersey Will, you control who gets your things at death. If you have no Will, the State of New Jersey decides who gets your stuff. These rules are complex. I have tried to make them as understandable as possible in this short article. But, you may wish to see my website for an article “Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will in New Jersey” that provides detailed examples.
What it Means if you Die “Intestate.”
If you die without a Will, you are Intestate (without a testament/will). Intestate estates pass by the New Jersey Rules of Intestacy. These rules create bright line rules. By following the rules, you determine who receives the Intestate person’s assets. The rules try to give assets to the person or people that the state believes you want to benefit. Left guessing, the state must determine whom would you have included in your Will? Sometimes the State gets it right and sometimes it does not.
A common misunderstanding is that if you die without a Will, your assets may end up passing to New Jersey. It is possible for New Jersey to end up with your assets. But, this only happens if you have no surviving relatives.
Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will In New Jersey, an Introduction.
This short article is meant to explain complex rules in plain language. For a more in-depth review with particular facts, see my website article New Jersey Intestacy Rules. All the examples help you understand, Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will in New Jersey.
Beneficiary Designations and Property Passing By Operation of Law.
Having a Will, or not having Will, does not affect who receives your assets after death if you have named a beneficiary. Some assets, such as IRAs or life insurance policies, typically name beneficiaries. If you do not remember naming someone you can contact your benefits person or life insurance agent for a copy of you Beneficiary Designation Form.
If you have an asset that names a beneficiary, then this asset passes to the designated beneficiary, whether you have a Will or not. The same applies to property that you own jointly with another person, such as a house you hold as “Joint Tenants With a Right of Survivorship” with another person. Your other assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, furniture, cars or any other thing that you own that has no beneficiary will pass as part of your estate at death. If you have a Will, the Will states who gets these things. If you have no Will, then New Jersey dictates to whom these assets pass.
A Breakdown of New Jersey’s Laws of Intestacy
Most people assume that if they die without a Will all their assets pass automatically to their surviving spouse and this is not necessarily true!
When the Surviving Spouse Gets it All:
The surviving spouse receives everything in an intestate estate in only two sets of circumstances. The first is if the intestate deceased had a surviving spouse but neither surviving issue (children, grandchildren, etc.) nor parents. The second is if the deceased had a surviving spouse and surviving descendants but each of these descendants was also the surviving spouse’s descendants, and the surviving spouse had no other descendants. In other words, if the surviving spouse has children from another relationship the State puts aside some of the intestate estate only for the biological descendants, in case the surviving spouse decides to share the inheritance with what were step-children of the deceased.
Sometimes Parents Get A Portion, Even if your Spouse Survives you:
If the deceased has no descendants but is survived by a spouse and at least one parent, then the surviving spouse receives the first 25% of the intestate estate, but not less than $50,000.00 nor more than $200,000.00, plus three-quarters of any balance of the intestate estate. The surviving parents equally share the remainder.
Sometimes Children Get A Portion, Even if your Spouse Survives you:
If the deceased has a surviving spouse and descendants, all of whom are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, but the surviving spouse has his or her descendants that are not the descendants of the deceased (step children), then the surviving spouse receives the first 25% of the intestate estate, but not less than $50,000.00 nor more than $200,000.00, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate. The remainder passes to the deceased’s descendants.
If one or more of the deceased’s surviving descendants are not the descendant of the surviving spouse (the surviving spouse is the stepmom or dad), the surviving spouse receives the first 25% of the intestate estate, but not less than $50,000.00 nor more than $200,000.00, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate. The remainder passes to the decedent’s descendants.
When there is no Surviving Spouse:
If there is no surviving spouse, then the entire intestate estate passes to the decedent’s descendants.
Are there neither surviving spouse nor descendants? Then the intestate estate passes to the parents equally if alive or to the surviving parent.
Are there no surviving spouse, descendants or parents? Then the intestate estate passes to the descendants of the decedent’s parents.
Is there no surviving spouse, descendants, parents or descendants of parents? BUT the decedent is survived by one or more grandparents? Then one-half of the intestate estate passes to the decedent’s paternal grandparents equally if both survive. OR to the surviving paternal grandparent, or to the descendants of the decedent’s paternal grandparents or either of them if both are deceased, the descendants taking by representation; and the other half passes to the decedent’s maternal relatives in the same manner; but if there is no surviving grandparent or descendant of a grandparent on either the paternal or the maternal side, the entire estate passes to the decedent’s relatives on the other side in the same manner as the half.
If there is no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, descendant of a parent, or surviving grandparent, but the decedent is survived by one or more descendants of grandparents, the descendants take equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent, but if of unequal degree those of more remote degree take by representation.
If there is no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, descendant of a parent, grandparent or descendants of grandparents, then the decedent’s stepchildren or their descendants take by representation.
Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will In New Jersey? Better to see some examples!
These rules can become confusing. We provide you some examples in our article, Simplifying the New Jersey Rules of Intestate Succession.
In this Post, I tried to answer the question, “Who Gets Your Stuff if You Die Without a Will In New Jersey?” Let me know how I did, comments and questions are welcome!
If you still have questions about the Rules of Intestacy, feel free to Contact our office for a free consultation.
Author, Peter Klenk, Esq. LL.M.