In New Jersey, if your loved one passes without a Will, there will be no legal remedy for which to honor his or her wishes regarding their estate. However, this does not necessarily mean you are out of luck. There is a certain procedure as to how a fiduciary appointed by the Court will distribute the estate of someone who passes without a will.
Steps to distribute an estate
Step 1: The estate of an intestate decedent (one who dies without a Will) enters into a process called probate. Usually, an applicant requests that the Court appoint him or her as the Administrator of the estate so that he or she can act on behalf of the estate. Any surviving heir of the decedent may be appointed. When there is more than one surviving heir at law, all heirs other than the applicant must renounce their right to be appointed Administrator. In most cases, a surety bond must be furnished to cover the value of the real and personal property in the estate, as well as any liabilities of the estate.
Step 2: After the court has appointed an Administrator, the Administrator must marshal the assets of the estate and pay any outstanding debts or liabilities. If a claim is not presented within nine months from the date of the decedent's death, the Administrator will not be liable to that creditor.
Step 3: All administration expenses, funeral expenses, taxes, and other debts must be paid from the estate.
Step 4: After the appropriate tax returns are filed, the Administrator of the estate will be able to liquidate and distribute the remaining assets to the heirs at law.
Let us help you
Depending on where you are in the hierarchy of intestate distribution, you may or may not receive part of a loved one's estate. If you feel that you are entitled to a portion of the estate, you can petition the Court to be considered an heir, which may be an uphill battle if you choose to do so without legal representation. You should hire an attorney experienced in estate and probate law to protect your interests. The Kridel Law Group is your New Jersey estate law expert. Contact us at (973) 470-0800 or [email protected] to schedule a consultation today.