The death of a loved one in New Jersey often presents challenges when dealing with their estate. If you learn after experiencing such a loss that your loved one failed to leave behind a will detailing their wishes as to the dispersal of their estates, you may think you and other potential beneficiaries likely avoided such issues.

Many of those that come to us here at Rudolph & Bloodgood, LLC with this same assumption. Why? Most think that if a person does not write a will, then it falls to their beneficiaries to decide how to divide up their assets. Yet that is not the case.

What happens when one dies without a will?

When your loved one dies intestate (without a will), state law determines the dispersal of their estates. According to Section 3b:5-3 of New Jersey’s state statutes, your loved one’s surviving spouse (or domestic partner) receives their entire estate if they leave behind no direct descendants. That interest reduces to the first 25% of the estate’s total value (not to exceed $200,000) plus the remaining 50% of its remaining value if your loves did leave descendants who are also the descendants of the spouse, or 75% of its remaining value if the decedent had no descendants but at least one surviving parent.

If your loved one was not survived by a spouse, then their intestate estate passes as follows:

  • To their descendants
  • To their parents
  • To their siblings (and their descendants)
  • To their grandparents
  • To their next of kin
  • To their step-children

No allowances for non-relatives

You likely noticed that the law makes no allowances for anyone not related to your loved one. Such a party can only benefit from their estate if official documentation stipulates that wish. You can learn more about estate administration issues by continuing to explore our site.