The only way to avoid someone from inheriting your assets against your wishes is to have a will in place prior to your passing. This is why Estate Planning is so important. Dying without a will, also known as dying intestate, will result in the state law determining who receives a person’s assets. Each state has its own law, known as an intestacy statute, which outlines how a person’s assets are to be distributed upon their death in the event a will does not exist. In New Jersey, the law varies based on whether the deceased person was single or married.
If the deceased person was single, the decedent’s assets are distributed in the following order:
- To the children of the decedent;
- If no children, then to the decedent’s parents;
- If no children or parents, then to the decedent’s siblings;
- If no children, parents or siblings, then one-half to the maternal grandparents and one-half to the paternal grandparents (or their respective children if the grandparents are deceased);
- If no children of the grandparents, then to stepchildren.
- Only in the event of no surviving family members will the assets be turned over to the State.
If the deceased person was married:
All assets pass to the surviving spouse provided that the decedent did not also have children or parents. If the decedent had children that are also children of the surviving spouse, all assets pass to the surviving spouse. If the decedent had a spouse and parents, the spouse receives the first 25% of the estate, but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000, plus 75% of the balance and the parents receive the remainder of the assets. If the decedent has children but not from the surviving spouse, then the spouse receives the first 25% of the estate, but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000, plus 50% of the balance and the children receive the remainder of the assets. Again, only in the event of no surviving family members will the assets be turned over to the State.
Having a will in place prior to your passing, will insure that your assets are turned over to family, friends or charities of your choosing and not at the direction of the State. A piece of jewelry that you wanted your daughter to have, or a family photograph or keepsake that was meant for your sister will not necessarily end up in the appropriate hands unless you have a will that specifically states your wishes. To insure that your assets and belongings are distributed as you desire, please contact us at LevinCyphers by calling 732-240-0909 or send us a message so that we can assist you in preparing a will and other important estate planning documents.