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How Long Does Probate Take in New Jersey Without a Will?

While it’s difficult to determine a timeline settling an estate without a will, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to probate without a will in New Jersey

Posted on May 11, 2022 by Luisa Rollenhagen
Probate in New Jersey

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

Do you ever wonder what would happen to your belongings if you suddenly died and didn’t have a will? Well, in New Jersey you would have died intestate, and an intestacy system that governs how estates and probate assets are settled when there’s no will would kick in. This system sets forth intestate succession guidelines and intestacy statutes.

However, these intestacy laws remain fact-specific, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all formula for intestacy distribution. Rather, estate distribution varies depending on family makeup specifics, such as your marital status, the existence of parents or siblings, and the number of children.

Fortunately, not all your assets will go through this administration if you die intestate. Some of what you acquire during life automatically passes outside a will. Such assets include the following:

  • Your spouse has the right to survivorship for a home that you owned jointly. Tenancy by the entirety or joint tenancy allows the surviving person to assume real estate ownership upon your death.
  • A person with the right of survivorship will inherit a bank account that you own jointly. Also, an account in your name and payable-on-death bank accounts with named beneficiaries can also bypass probate.
  • Proceeds of a life insurance policy will go to the named beneficiary.
  • A 401K, IRA, OR company pension plan with named beneficiaries.
  • Revocable living trust's assets.

The above assets go to the named beneficiaries or anyone with the right of survivorship upon your death. However, if the survivor or beneficiary dies before you, the above assets go to your estate and are distributed according to New Jersey's intestate laws. The same goes for any assets that were owned solely by you, such as bank accounts without beneficiaries, personal property such as furniture and jewelry, or any vehicles without a shared deed. The New Jersey law provides a guideline on how to distribute assets in the decedent's name alone as follows:

  1. A surviving spouse with children from the same marriage, with no stepchildren or children from a prior marriage, will inherit the entire estate if you die. The same goes if your spouse survives you and you have no children.
  2. A surviving spouse and your children from a prior marriage: The spouse will inherit 25% of any property (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus one-half of any estate balance. Your children inherit the rest.
  3. A surviving spouse and surviving parents: The spouse will inherit 25% of any property (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus three-fourths of any estate balance. Your parents inherit the remaining property.
  4. If your parents survive you because you die without a spouse or children, your parents inherit everything.
  5. If you have siblings but no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then your siblings inherit everything.
  6. Your estate can go to distant relatives such as grandparents, aunts and cousins with no immediate family members. However, if there is no surviving member in your bloodline, the estate is escheat, and the State of New Jersey assumes ownership of your property.

How Do I Go Through Probate in NJ Without a Will?

An interested party in the probate of an estate with no will is required to file an affidavit of administration through the surrogate court of the county where the deceased lived at the time of their death. The process must begin no sooner than ten days after the person's death. The person applying to be the estate administrator presents various documents to the surrogate office to process legal documents, such as the estate executor's letters of testamentary or administrator's letter of administration. The surrogate court determines whether there is a need for an estate bond before probate proceedings begin.

How Long Does Probate Take In NJ Without a Will?

There is no definite timeline for probate without a will in NJ. It can take years if the deceased had numerous creditors, if the decedent owned several businesses, and/or if there are disputes among descendants. However, New Jersey's simplified probate procedures allow for quick and simplified probate when the deceased person leaves no will for an estate whose value that does not exceed $20,000. Such as simplified probate can take less than three weeks to finalize.

Handling probate with no will can be confusing, stressful, and challenging when you do not understand statutes specific to different jurisdictions. Contact us at ClearEstate for a free consultation if you need help or more information about a New Jersey probate without a will.