Estate Litigation When a Person Dies Without a Will or Trust in New Jersey?

If a person dies without a Will or trust, that person’s estate is distributed according to the statutory laws of New Jersey. Dying without a Last Will or trust is called dying “intestate”. The process of administering an estate without a Last Will or trust is called “intestate succession” (see below). That is why a Will or trust is important. If the deceased has assets but no Will or trust exists, a formal court proceeding is required to be filed so that an administrator to finalize the estate can be appointed by a Superior Court judge.  The administrator is then legally empowered to represent the best interests of the estate.

The Importance of Being Named as Estate Administrator

I have written extensively how the absence of a will or trust after death or when a will or trust is found yet no ($$$) money is claimed to exist, can suggest numerous reasons to believe fraud, undue influence, and other wrongful conduct occurred pre-death.

Succinctly stated, it is very (as in very) important that you almost always insist on being named the administrator of an estate when no Will can be located so that you can independently investigate the entirety of the decedent’s finances before he or she died. As administrator you’ll have the full legal authority of the New Jersey probate code on your side including the power of subpoena to bank records, brokerage, and personal accounts. If you confirm fraud and other wrongful conduct, you’ll be able to take the deposition of witnesses under oath and recover the stolen/converted funds and (potentially) counsel fees and costs of litigation. And remember, if you are asked to renunciate being appointed the administrator, never, ever, ever agree without first discussing it with me or a qualified probate estate attorney in New Jersey.

Renunciating as Executor/Administrator

Must an Administrator Always Be Appointed by the Probate Court?

If the total assets of the deceased exceed $20,000.00 then the County Surrogate must appoint an administrator. Before someone is appointed, all next of kin of the deceased must be notified of any court proceeding seeking to appoint an administrator or each must renounce their right(s) to be the administrator. The decision to renunciate should only be made after consultation with an experienced New Jersey Estate Administration and Probate attorney. Significant legal rights may be affected by an ill-advised refusal to serve as an administrator to an estate administration.  In fact, almost always I advise clients not to renunciate administration but to advocate and fight to become the administrator.  I’ve explained my reasons why in the video above.  

Am I talking to you on this page?  If so, contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. at or call him toll-free at (855) 376-5291 should you have any questions about the issues of renunciation of the rights to be estate administrator.

Probate & Estate Litigation in New Jersey

What Happens if You Die Without A Last Will in NJ (Part 1)

What Happens if You Die Without A Last Will in NJ (Part 2)


Prior to her death in 2008, I was my Mom’s Power of Attorney.   She moved to North Carolina to live out her final years with me and my family.   Previously, she had lived her entire life in New Jersey.

After her death, property in New Jersey left to me and my siblings, was supposed to be sold and divided among us but unfortunately an unhappy sibling refused to cooperate.

After researching attorneys in New Jersey, I hired Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. to represent my interests.   I am glad that I did.   His office was terrific and advocated forcibly and professionally on my behalf.   We were kept informed throughout the entirety of the case and the quality of the work was excellent.   While stressful at times, the legal dispute was successfully resolved, the case against me dismissed and I was able to cause the property to be sold and the proceeds distributed.

Mr. Niemann and his very capable associates and paraprofessionals did a competent and thorough job and I recommend them to all who are reading this testimonial.

– Craig and Lisa Rose – Beaufort, North Carolina

Who are the Beneficiaries of an “Intestate Estate” When There is No Will?

When there is no Will, the law of NJ defines who will inherit an estate:

A spouse, civil union partner, or domestic partner and children of the decedent or their descendants are given priority. Then follows grandchildren who take a deceased parent’s share unless all children are deceased, then all grandchildren share equally.

If there is no spouse, civil union, or domestic partner and no children, then surviving parents take the entire estate. If no parent survives, brothers and sisters will take it equally. Nieces and nephews will take their deceased parent’s share.

If you have no civil union or domestic partner or spouse; child or descendant; brother or sister; grandparent; uncle or aunt or children of an aunt and uncle, then the estate is escheat. Escheat in New Jersey is not a good thing.

To learn how to avoid escheating an estate to New Jersey and protecting your rights as an heir or administrator of the estate, or if you are the administrator of an estate without a Will and are under attack by beneficiaries or omitted beneficiaries, then contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. today, toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at to learn your rights and protect your interests.

He welcomes your calls and inquiries and you’ll find him easy to talk to and very approachable.


Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Will Contest Probate Litigation Attorney