Who gets your property if you die without a last will and testament in New Jersey? To answer this question, you must know which family members survived the decedent. For example, whether the decedent has a surviving spouse, children, parents or more distant living relatives. Each State has enacted an intestate succession law, which is a government mandated estate plan for when a person dies without a Will. Here is a link to the New Jersey statute for reference.
The answer to this inquiry depends on which family members or relatives survived the person who died (the decedent) without a Will. This page seeks to explain in clear terms with simple examples what happens to a person’s probate assets if he or she dies intestate in New Jersey.
Before the examples begin, remember, property that is held joint with the right of survivorship or that has a beneficiary designation will not follow the intestacy statute. Each example below has a pictograph example, simply click on the box to the right. As always, please contact us for a free consultation if you have any questions.
We start with some fairly straightforward examples, then move onto more complex family situations at number 8 below.
1 – Husband and Wife are married, Husband dies with surviving spouse but no surviving parents or children. This is as simple as it gets. The surviving wife inherits the entire probate estate.
2 – Husband is married to his partner, both die together in a car accident, survived by their two minor adopted children. The surviving adopted minor children each inherit equal one-half (1/2) shares of the probate estate of each decedent.
2.1 – Husband and Wife are married, they die together in a car accident leaving one surviving child and two surviving grandchildren from a predeceased child. All probate assets of each decedent are divided into per stirpital shares at the child level. The surviving child inherits one-half (1/2) of the probate estate. The grandchildren divide the remaining one-half (1/2); meaning each inherits a one-quarter (1/4) of the probate estate.
2.2 – Husband and Wife are married with and two sons, all die together in car accident; one son survived by one daughter, one son survived by three sons. The probate assets of each decedent are divided into per stirpital shares at the grandchild level. The surviving grandchildren each inherit a one-quarter (1/4) share of the probate estate.
3 – Man dies unmarried with no children, survived by both parents. The probate estate is divided equally among the surviving parents. Each parent inherits a one-half (1/2) share of the probate estate.
4 – Man dies survived by a brother and no surviving spouse, children or parents. The man’s brother inherits the entire probate estate.
4.1 – Woman dies with surviving brother, two surviving nephews of another predeceased brother, and no surviving spouse, children or parents. The probate estate is divided into per stirpital shares at the sibling level. The surviving brother inherits one-half (1/2) of the probate assets, the nephews divide the remaining one-half (1/2), meaning each inherits a one-quarter (1/4) share of the probate estate.
5 – Woman married to her partner, woman dies survived by her partner and both parents (no children). Contrary to popular belief, the surviving wife does not inherit the entire probate estate. The surviving spouse receives the first twenty-five (25%) of the probate estate (but not less than $50,000.00 or more than $200,000.00) plus an additional three-quarter (3/4) share of the remaining probate estate. The remainder of the probate assets is divided into equal shares for the woman’s surviving parents.
6 – Husband and Wife are married, Husband dies with surviving spouse, their two children, and his parents. The surviving spouse receives the entire probate estate
7 – Husband and Wife are married, husband dies with surviving spouse, a child of both he and his Wife, and a child of only his Wife’s (step-child). The surviving spouse receives the first twenty-five percent (25%) of the probate estate (but not less than $50,000.00 or more than $200,000.00) plus one-half (1/2) of the balance of the probate estate. The remaining probate estate passes to his surviving child. The step-child receives nothing. However, the surviving spouse could leave her entire share to the step-child by Will.
7.1 – Husband and Wife are married, husband dies with surviving spouse, a child of both he and his Wife, and a child of his from a previous marriage. The surviving spouse receives the first twenty-five percent (25%) of the probate estate (but not less than $50,000.00 or more than $200,000.00) plus one-half (1/2) of the balance of the probate estate. The remaining probate estate passes in equal shares to his surviving children.
This is where our analysis becomes tricky. So long as there are lineal descendants of the decedent’s grandparents the probate estate passes to a relative. Otherwise, property may also pass to step-children of the decedent or if no other heirs can be found the probate estate passes to the State of New Jersey.
The first step of the analysis is to divide the probate estate into two equal shares; one for the maternal grandparents (and their descendants) and one for the paternal grandparents (and their descendants). Note: If there are no surviving grandparents or descendants of grandparents on either side then no division takes place, and the estate passes entirely to the paternal side of the family and vice versa. In some examples, the discussion takes place solely on the paternal side however the same analysis is necessary on the maternal side.
8 – Man dies with both surviving maternal and paternal grandparents, but no spouse, children, parents or siblings. The probate estate is divided into equal one-half (1/2) shares, one for each of the maternal and paternal side of the family. Each grandparent inherits an equal one-fourth (1/4) share of the probate estate.
8.1 – Man dies with both surviving paternal grandparents (2) one surviving maternal grandparent (1), but no spouse, children, parents or siblings. The maternal grandparent inherits one-half (1/2) of the probate estate. The remaining one-half (1/2) is divided into equal shares for the paternal grandparents, each receives a one-fourth (1/4) share of the probate estate.
9 – Man dies with one surviving uncle, but no spouse, children, parents or siblings or grandparents. The maternal and paternal shares of the probate estate are divided into per stirpital shares at the Uncle level; the sole surviving uncle inherits the entire probate estate regardless of whether he is a maternal or paternal uncle.
9.1 – Same scenario as above except one uncle predeceases the man, leaving a surviving child (the man’s cousin). The cousin inherits the entire probate estate.
10 – Man dies with three surviving grandchildren of his paternal grandparents (1st cousins), but no spouse, children, parents or siblings or grandparents, aunts, or uncles. If there are living paternal grandchildren (1st cousins), probate estate is divided into three equal one-third (1/3) shares among them.
10.1 – Man dies with three surviving grandchildren of his paternal grandparents (1st cousins) and one surviving great-grandchild of his paternal grandparents, but no spouse, children, parents or siblings or grandparents, aunts, or uncles. The man’s first cousins and surviving great-grandchild each inherit equal one-quarter (1/4) shares.
11 – Man dies with no surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings or grandparents, or descendants of grandparents. Man is survived by his step-daughter. The step-child inherits the entire probate estate.
12 – Husband dies with no surviving spouse, children, parents, grandparents, or descendants of grandparents, and no surviving step-children. The entire probate estate escheats to the State of New Jersey.
I hope this review of a complicated subject has been helpful to you. If you have further questions about intestate succession in New Jersey, feel free to contact us for a free consultation with one of our New Jersey Probate Lawyers.
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. The contents of this website and the posting and viewing of the information on this website should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal or tax advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. The information presented on this website may not reflect the most current legal developments. Further, this website may contain technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained on this website, and we disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this site to the fullest extent permitted by law. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.
Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.
Peter was excellent. He explained everything very clearly and is super friendly. My wife and I originally tried using a lawyer through group legal coverage, but unfortunately the old adage - "you get what you pay for" - applied to the other lawyer, and we decided to go with a real professional.
When it came down to picking the right attorney to handle my affairs, I knew right away it was this firm. From speaking to their secretary to speaking to Peter I knew I was making the right decision. After only a few mins Peter knew right away what I was looking for and handled all my questions professionally and even gave me great feedback that put my mind at ease. All that without even giving a single penny! So of course I hired him! So far so good...
AWESOME LAWYER! Peter Klenk is an exceptional attorney and a very nice person! Today I spoke with Peter about estate planning and was impressed with by his professionalism, cordiality, and attention to detail. I highly recommend Klenk Law for probates, wills, trusts, and other issues germane to estate planning!
Great friendly staff
Tremendous firm with bright, kind and tenacious people. Great representation for our family.
I'm totally satisfied with Klenk Law. Peter has a great legal mind with the personality of the guy next door.
Everything about my experience was a 10+! Peter and his staff made what I thought would be a difficult process easy and understandable. Every detail was handled correctly. No other firm could possibly do better than Klenk Law!
Peter and his staff are very responsive and always willing to help my clients and in a cost efficient manner.
Like another reviewer, I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link, for a question regarding PA inheritance taxes. The question was quite technical and difficult to explain, and the answer was nowhere to be found on the web. Peter grasped precisely what I was asking, and provided a clear, helpful response (with a touch of humor) the very next day.
Answered my question quickly and referred me to a colleague that could handle my problem
Mr. Klenk, quickly understood the circumstances presented and provided clear and concise advice. This advice provided me with the information I required to progress the case to my advantage.
Peter is excellent. I had a very complicated situation with my parents' estate planning and potential Medicaid needs. Peter was very knowledgeable in estate planning matters, able to define the best solution for the situation. Additionally, he was congenial and able to communicate effectively to my senior citizen parents the benefits of estate planning. He earned my trust, and more importantly, my parents' trust in a 45 mins consultation period. Highly recommend Peter. He is very easy to work with.
Peter recently gave a presentation about Wills & Trusts at my employer, and it was fantastic! He was extremely knowledgeable and provided valuable information to the group. People were very engaged and asked several questions, all of which Peter thoroughly answered. Personally, my husband and I have selected Peter to help us with our estate planning, and he has been very helpful in providing us with all of the information we need to provide a secure future for our family. Thank you, Peter!
Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.
Peter explained things in a way that was easy to understand. Everything was done in the time frame he said it. Could not have been better!
You & your staff are the best thank you for everything.
Peter and his staff handled all of our needs in a very professional and timely matter.
Peter Klenk made a complex subject understandable and allowed us to move forward with our estate planning. He was patient with our questions and creative in the solutions he proposed.
Peter explained a complex subject very clearly, helped us to decide the best approach to managing our estate and then made it very easy for us to execute the required documents. He will be a valuable resource for years to come and clearly has a great understanding of estate law that will lead to innovative solutions for us. I would unhesitatingly recommend him for estate planning.
Fantastic customer service. Very personable and most importantly they provide great explanations of what is required based on your individual needs. Highly recommend Klenk Law for anyone that needs to create a will and estate documents.
Always professional and very responsive. Everyone on the staff that I have worked with. I look forward to continuing our relationship.
Affable...yet surprisingly cerebral estate planning atty. High marks all the way around.
Peter and his associates made things easy for us.