When people in New Jersey die without a will, their estates go through a process called administration. A common misconception holds that the assets of such estates go to the state in such situations, however, that is not the case.
Understanding what happens when a loved one passes without a will may help you determine your responsibilities for settling his or her final affairs.
Settling an estate
According to the Morris County Surrogate Court, settling an estate without a will involves several steps. If appointed as the estate administrator or personal representative, you will first record, then gather the decedent’s assets. After using those assets to satisfy any outstanding taxes or debts the decedent may have had, you will disburse the remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs, beneficiaries or family.
Dividing the estate’s assets
The laws of intestate succession will determine how you distribute your deceased loved one’s remaining assets. The family members who survive the decedent affect who will receive assets from the estate and the percentage of the assets they will get. For instance, if your loved one dies, leaving behind a spouse and shared children, then the total of his or her estate goes to the surviving spouse. If your loved one had no spouse or children but has surviving parents, then the assets go to the decedent’s mother and father. When someone passes away leaving no next of kin, the property held in his or her estate escheats to the state.
Handling the final affairs of a deceased loved one carries significant responsibility. However, options exist to aid you in settling the estate of your deceased loved one.