Estate / Probate

Estate planning is intricate so enlisting the help of skilled lawyers such as Afonso & Archie, P.C. is paramount. Call us today: (856) 786-7000

Creating a comprehensive estate plan is a collaborative process requiring: review of assets; envisioning how they might be distributed and forecasting your future requirements. There is also preparation of a variety of intersecting testamentary documents with strict legal standards.

The seasoned professionals at Afonso & Archie, P.C. are adept at gently walking through the process to ensuring your estate needs are met with speed and clarity.

What happens in New Jersey when there is no Will or Trust?

When a person dies without a will or trust in New Jersey an administrator for his/her estate is appointed by a court their estate is distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. These laws dictate how assets are divided among surviving family members but can be complicated by family disputes or debts owed by the deceased.

Before distribution to heirs the state will deduct for debts and taxes.

Who Gets What in New Jersey?

Who gets what depends on the deceased having living children, parents, or other close relatives.

Children; no spouse Children inherit all
Spouse; no descendants or parents Spouse inherits all
Spouse and descendants from deceased and spouse; spouse has no other descendants Spouse inherits all
Spouse and descendants from deceased and spouse; Spouse has descendants from another relationship Spouse inherits the first 25% of your intestate property (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus 1/2 of the remainder; descendants inherit remainder
Spouse and descendants from deceased plus descendants from other than spouse Spouse inherits the first 25% of your intestate property (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus 1/2 of the remainder; descendants inherit remainder
Spouse and parents Spouse inherits the first 25% of your intestate property (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus 3/4 of the remainder; parents inherit remaining intestate property
Parents but no spouse or descendants Parents inherit all
Siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents Siblings inherit all
No spouse, child or descendants; parent(s); brother(s) or sister(s) and their descendants; grandparent(s); uncle(s), aunt(s) or their children; or their grandchildren. New Jersey takes all property – “escheating”

What if the are no relatives?

New Jersey law determines the beneficiaries, who is a relative, by bloodline.  When there are no known relatives, the estate escheats (takes) all property. To avoid escheating your estate to New Jersey, call Afonso & Archie, P.C. today at (856) 786-7000.

The Probate Process

When someone passes the validity of the will must first be established, the probate process, before the executor of the will can distribute the property to the rightful heirs.

In the probate process the court scrutinizes the will and addresses any challenges regarding its legitimacy or the rightful heirs. Once settled, the court grants probate to the executor who can then distribute the assets according to the will.

Which Assets Pass Probate in New Jersey?

Only assets that pass through probate – the judicial process which validates the will in a court of law – are affected by intestate succession laws. Some assets are not included in the probate process and therefore excluded by intestate succession laws:

  • property you’ve transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account with a named beneficiary
  • securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • real estate for which you have a transfer on death deed
  • vehicles for which you have a transfer on death registration
  • payable-on-death bank accounts, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don’t have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.

How is Probate Handled When No Will Exists

When someone passes away without leaving a will, the process of handling their estate is governed by intestacy laws rather than probate. Intestacy laws outline how the deceased’s assets will be distributed among their heirs based on their legal relationship and the laws of the jurisdiction in which they lived.

Typically, the court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate instead of an executor. The administrator’s role is similar to that of an executor, but they follow the guidelines set by intestacy laws rather than the directions of a will. The administrator is responsible for identifying and valuing the deceased’s assets, paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs according to the laws of intestacy.

The probate court oversees this process to ensure that it is carried out in accordance with the law. If there are disputes among potential heirs or questions about the distribution of assets, the court may need to intervene to resolve these issues. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed fairly and in accordance with applicable laws, even in the absence of a will.