Dying Without a Will in NJ

What Happens If You Die Without a Last Will in New Jersey?

Getting older means it’s time to do estate planning. Many people however never get around to it and then, guess what… they die.  So, what happens when you die in New Jersey and you don’t have a will in place?  The answer… Your estate will be distributed according to New Jersey’s intestate laws (intestate means laws of inheritance when a person dies without a will).  These laws may or may not be the way you want your estate distributed if you had gotten around to signing a will.

As I previously mentioned, dying without a will is called dying “intestate“. New Jersey has laws that determine what will happen to your estate if you don’t have a trust or a will. If you are in a second or successive marriage, New Jersey law will award a portion of your estate to your spouse, with the rest divided among your children. If this is not what you want you can change this outcome with your Last Will. Even if this is what you do want, what percent of your estate do you want to go to your spouse and your children?

If you don’t have children or a spouse, then your estate will be divided among other living relatives such as your parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. If you’re single, New Jersey provides that your estate will go to your children or to other living relatives (often referred to as next of kin) if you don’t have children. If you have absolutely no living relatives, then your estate will go to the state of New Jersey. This is called escheating to the state.

In the absence of a Will a judge will also appoint a person to administer your estate. In addition, if you are unmarried but have a significant other, a/k/a/ companion, your significant other will not inherit anything from your estate without a will naming him or her as a beneficiary.

Note that any jointly held asset(s), such as a bank or brokerage account(s) or jointly owned real estate, will go directly to the co-owner. In addition, any life insurance policies or retirement accounts will go directly to the beneficiary designated on the account. And if you have a trust, any assets in the trust will go to the beneficiary designated in the trust.

One purpose of a last will is to name a guardian for your young children; if you do not have a will, it is possible that a court will determine who will act as guardian of your children, especially if the biological parent is also deceased or a guardianship fight is started. Another reason for a will is to create a support trust for a minor child(ren) so that they have the resources available to them for their health, education, maintenance and support until they are older in life and prevent them from demanding their inheritance at age 18, only to squander it frivolously.

Before You Apply to Be an Administrator of an Estate, Make Sure You Are Financially Qualified to Be Bonded and Will Be Approved by the Surrogate’s Office

Dying Without a Will in NJ (Part 1)

Dying Without a Will in NJ (Part 2)

The best way to ensure your estate is distributed the way you want it is to plan your estate with a Last Will & Testament, Trust, and other supporting documents. Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. and Hanlon Niemann & Wright is a New Jersey attorney who has prepared thousands of wills for individuals like you.

He can guide you through the process and help you determine what the right thing to do is and what documents are appropriate for you. Call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com today. Mr. Niemann is easy to talk to and wants to assist you to protect everything that is important to you. Please review these additional websites that address common issues when a person dies without a will or trust under NJ law.


Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Last Wills Attorney

Estate planning attorney serving these New Jersey Counties:

Monmouth County, Ocean County, Essex County, Cape May County, Camden County, Mercer County, Middlesex County,
Bergen County, Morris County, Burlington County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Passaic County