Estate administration after a family member passes away can be complicated and time-consuming. Intestate administration is a legal process that may include gathering a decedent’s property (it is called “marshalling the assets), ascertaining and paying their final debts and taxes, and ultimately, distributing their net estate according to the laws of intestacy. At Goldstein Law Group, our Middlesex County, Monmouth County and Ocean County estate administration lawyers can help administer an estate or resolve contested estate issues. The guidance of an estate administration attorney is often critical in these sensitive matters.The Process of Intestacy
The administration process begins with, and includes the following steps:
- The filing of an application with the Surrogate in the county in which the decedent was a resident at his or her time of death.
- The application includes personal information including:
- The applicant’s residence;
- Name, address, and date of death of the decedent;
- Identity of any spouse and next-of-kin.
- The application is sworn under oath.
- The affidavit must be accompanied with a death certificate.
- The application is filed and recorded by the County Surrogate.
Letters of Administration will be granted according to a priority among the decedent’s next of kin. The decedent’s spouse has priority, followed by their children, parents, and siblings, in that order. If any person having priority chooses not to serve as Administrator, they must renounce their right to do so. If there are multiple people with equal priority, such as children, they may serve as Co-Administrators or one among them may serve as Administrator if the others all renounce.What if the Estate is Small in Value?
If the total estate is less than $20,000, a surviving spouse or next-of-kin may receive Affidavits from the Surrogate’s court to dispose of individual pieces of property. If the aggregate estate exceeds $20,000, then the Surrogate will issue a Letters of General Administration, giving the Administrator blanket authority to transfer all of the decedent’s estate.Will I Have to Post a Surety Bond if I am Appointed as an Administrator?
The Surrogate WILL require an Administrator to obtain a surety bond.What is a Surety Bond?
A surety bond is a form of insurance to protect the other heirs and creditors to the estate if the Administrator wrongfully transfers estate funds to themselves or misappropriates the estate’s assets. Generally, no bond is required if the Administrator is the surviving spouse and all of the decedent’s children were also the children of the Administrator, or the decedent has no children.Intestate Inheritance
If the decedent failed to leave a Will to determine the disposition of the decedent’s estate, or the Will simply cannot be located, then the decedent’s estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. The distribution amount will be the amount remaining after all the probate assets are gathered, and the final debts and administrative expenses paid.
The assets owned by a decedent typically fall into one of two classes: Probate Assets and Non-probate assets.What is the Difference Between Probate Assets and Non-Probate Assets?
Non-Probate assets include such assets as joint bank accounts and life insurance policies with named beneficiaries, which will pass directly to the beneficiary by operation of law or by contract and will not be distributed as part of the intestate inheritance.Who is Entitled to Inherit Under the Laws of Intestacy in New Jersey?
This is determined by New Jersey’s state statutes on descent and distribution.
It depends on whether the decedent had a surviving spouse. If so, it further depends on whether the decedent had surviving children. The law further varies based on whether the decedent’s children are also the children of the decedent’s surviving spouse (e.g.- it is different if the surviving spouse is the children’s parent or stepparent.
The intestate share of the surviving spouse is everything if: i) there are no children, or ii) all of decedent’s children are also the children of the surviving spouse.
If the decedent has any children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse receives the first 25% (but not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000) plus one-half the balance and the decedent’s children will inherit the balance of the estate equally among themselves.Consult a Probate Administration Lawyer in Monmouth County, Middlesex County and Ocean County to Further Your Interests
It can be expensive and time-consuming to wait for an estate to settle. For many people, it is important to avoid probate and plan for the distribution of your estate with a Will or trust. At Goldstein Law Group, our experienced estate administration and probate attorneys are ready to assist you with the complexities of these matters. Our offices are conveniently located in Brielle, in Monmouth County, on the border of Ocean County, and in Old Bridge Township, in Middlesex County. Many of our clients have come from communities such as Rumson, Red Bank, and Manalapan, Marlboro, Little Silver, Spring Lake, Wall Township, Brick, Farmingdale, Edison, Metuchen, Highland Park, Howell Township, Point Pleasant, as well as all municipalities in Bergen County, Hudson County and Essex County. Please contact us at 732-967-6777 or via our online form for a Free 10 Minute Case Evaluation. We also can assist people who need a family law attorney or representation in a criminal defense, real estate, civil litigation, or business law matter.