Estates Without a Will

If you die without a Will, or “intestate,” your probate assets and estate are divided according to New Jersey’s intestate laws. The Surrogate will determine whether or not an Administrator needs to be appointed, depending on the size of the estate.

Q. What happens if you do not have a Will, have a surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, and your total assets are less than $50,000?

If there is a surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, and the property in the name of the decedent does not exceed $50,000, an Affidavit of Surviving Spouse may be issued by the Surrogate, allowing the spouse or partner to dispose of the property. However, if there is a surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner and the assets are over $50,000, that spouse or partner has the right to be appointed as Administrator.

Q. What happens if you do not have a Will or a surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, and your total assets are less than $20,000?

When there is no spouse or legal partner and the property does not exceed $20,000, a close relative can be issued an Affidavit of Next of Kin to handle the disposition of your property. Before someone is appointed, however, all other closest next of kin of the deceased must consent to the appointment. If the assets exceed $20,000, the Surrogate will appoint an Administrator after the other closest next of kin have renounced their right to be appointed and consented to the appointment of the applicant. In this situation, a surety bond may be required to be posted by the person being appointed. The property is dispensed to the next of kin, according to the law of intestate succession. In situations where there is no immediate family, your property may go to distant relatives or ultimately escheat to the state.

Q. How is my estate distributed without a will?

The law of intestate succession in New Jersey states that:

  • If you die leaving a spouse, a registered domestic partner, or civil union partner and children who are also the children of the spouse or legal partner, the spouse/legal partner receives 100% of the estate and no bond is required to be posted.
  • If you die leaving a spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, and children of a prior marriage, the spouse/legal partner receives the first 25% (but not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000), plus ½ of the balance of the estate. The children of the decedent share the remaining balance of the estate. If a child predeceased the parent and that child produced grandchildren, the grandchildren share the balance that would have been their parent’s share.
  • If you die leaving a spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, and no children, but are survived by a parent(s), the spouse receives the first 25% (but not less than $50,000, nor more than $200,000) plus ¾ of the balance. Surviving parent(s) receive all other assets of the estate.
  • If you die leaving a child or children but no spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, the children will take equally. Grandchildren will take their deceased parent’s share
  • If you die leaving no spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, parent(s) will take all. If no parent survives, brothers and sisters of decedent will take equally. If a sibling predeceased the decedent, then the nieces and nephews will take their deceased parent’s share.
  • If you die leaving a spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner and children, and the surviving spouse or legal partner has children from a previous relationship, the spouse receives the first 25% (but no less than $50,000 and no more than $200,000). Children of the decedent share the remaining balance of the estate. The stepchildren do not share in the estate.
  • If you die leaving a surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, and only step-children, the surviving spouse or legal partner receives 100% of the estate.
  • If you die without a surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner who had children from a previous relationship and you have no other descendants, such as parents, siblings, grandparents or other direct descendants, the step-children share 100% of the estate.

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