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Dying without a Will: Who Gets Your Estate?

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What happens if you die without a will, or intestate? Who gets your estate? Many people die without executing a Will. I recently completed an estate administration for my client Alvin. Alvin’s wife, Arlene, passed away without a Will. Arlene had two children from a prior marriage, Stuart & Samantha. At the time of Arlene’s […]

What happens if you die without a will, or intestate? Who gets your estate? Many people die without executing a Will. I recently completed an estate administration for my client Alvin. Alvin’s wife, Arlene, passed away without a Will. Arlene had two children from a prior marriage, Stuart & Samantha. At the time of Arlene’s death she held the following assets:

  • a cash account at a local bank in her name alone worth $50,000.00
  • a home in New Jersey in her name alone worth $300,000.00. This was the home Alvin and Arlene resided in during their marriage.

Because Arlene failed to prepare a Will during her lifetime, the New Jersey intestacy statutes apply. In this example, Alvin was entitled to half the estate as was Stuart & Samantha. Arlene’s children forced Alvin to sell the principal residence and relocate to smaller quarters, so they could get their hands of their mother’s estate. This tragic tale could have been avoided had Arlene prepared a Will during her lifetime, and may be a lesson for all readers of this article especially those with children from another marriage.

Below I have summarized the intestacy laws in NJ, for those passing away without a Will:

A. What your Surviving Spouse Gets:

Your entire estate if you have no surviving issue and no surviving parent. The first $50,000 plus one-half of the balance of your estate if either:

  • you have no surviving issue but have a surviving parent or parents
  • you have surviving issue and all of them are also the issue of your spouse

One-half of your estate if you have surviving issue but one or more of such issue is not also the issue of your spouse (e.g., children by another marriage.)

B. What your Surviving Children or Grandchildren Get:

Your entire estate if you have no surviving spouse; Half your estate if have a surviving spouse who is not the parent of one or more of your children; Half your estate less $50,000. if you have a surviving spouse who is the parent of all your children.

C. What Your Parents Get:

Your entire estate if you have no surviving spouse or surviving issue; Half your estate less $50,000 if you have a surviving spouse but no surviving issue; Nothing if you have surviving issue.

D. What Your Brothers and Sisters Get:

Your entire estate if you have no surviving spouse, issue or parents; Nothing if you have surviving spouse, issue or parent.

E. What Other Relatives Get:

If you have no surviving spouse, issue, parent, brother or sister, then your entire estate passes as follows: a) To the surviving issue of your parents, other than your brothers and sisters (e.g., nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews, and so on); if there are none, then: b) To your surviving grandparents or their issue (e.g., aunts, uncles, first cousins, first cousins once removed and so on.) If you die without any relative listed above surviving you, then your estate is taken by the State of New Jersey (called Escheat).

IN SUMMARY

Making the best plan and the best Will takes knowledge and expert advice. If you do not have a Last Will & Testament, now is the time to consider signing one. A Will is tailored to your own particular needs. Only by planning in advance, are you assured that your wishes will be implemented. If you contact us and have your plan reviewed periodically by an attorney, you may be able to plan your estate in ways that can lower or eliminate your tax burden and leave more to your beneficiaries. Remember, making a Will is one of the wisest investments of your life-and after.

Law Firm of Benjamin Eckman
Planning Today for Your Family's Tomorrow

1767 Morris Ave., Suite 314
Union, NJ 07083

By Appointment Only:

73 Mt. View Blvd., Wayne, NJ 07470
(973)709-0909

1 University Drive, Suite 609
Hackensack, NJ 07601

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Union Office

1767 Morris Ave., Suite 314
Union, NJ 07083

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Wayne Office

By Appointment Only:

73 Mt. View Blvd., Wayne, NJ 07470
(973)709-0909

Get Directions
Hackensack Office

1 University Drive, Suite 609
Hackensack, NJ 07601

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