Most people in New Jersey likely assume that all adults in the state (particularly those in their later years) have a will (despite the natural reticence that many may have towards estate planning. Yet this assumption often proves false; indeed, according to information shared by Gallup, just over 44% of American adults actually have a will.
Many may think that if they do not prepare a will, the decision regarding the dispersal of their assets falls to their loved ones. Their presumptive heirs may also share in this assumption. This, however, is not the case: rather, New Jersey state law dictates the distribution of their estates.
Intestate succession in New Jersey
New Jersey’s succession rules for those who die intestate (without a will) reside in Section 3B.5-3 of the state’s statutes. These state that if one leaves a surviving spouse but no lineal descendants or surviving parents, the spouse inherits their entire estate (the same is true if the decedent’s descendants are also the descendants of the spouse).
The surviving spouse’s interest in the estate reduce to the first 25% of its value (if no less than $50,000 and no more than $200,000) plus one-half of its remaining balance if any of the decedent’s descendants are not biologically related to the surviving spouse (or vice-versa). Their remaining interest increases to three-fourths of the estate’s remaining value if the decedent has one or more surviving parents (but no descendants).
Allowances for non-relatives?
If there is no surviving spouse, one’s intestate estate succeeds as follows:
- To their descendants
- To their parents
- To their siblings (and their descendants)
- To their paternal and maternal kindred (in equal value)
One notices that no allowances exist for non-relatives. Only a certified estate planning instrument allows for benefits to any such parties.