Our “Ask a Question” mailbag addresses what happens when a sibling dies without a Will in New Jersey.
“My sister died in New Jersey without a will. Our parents are dead, and she never married or had children. Our dad had a daughter out of wedlock when he was very young. It was something that the family didn’t speak of, and we only saw her once in our lives. If a sibling dies without a Will in New Jersey, does a half-sibling receive a share?”
When a Person Dies Without a Will in New Jersey, the Rules of Intestacy Apply.
New Jersey law gave your sister the ability to leave her assets to any person. Similarly, she had the right to exclude any person. Unlike some countries, an unmarried New Jersey resident has no legal obligation to leave family members anything at death. Unfortunately, your sister failed to exercise her right to make a Will. Therefore, her probate assets pass under the New Jersey Rules of Intestacy.
When there is no Will, the New Jersey Rules of Intestacy provide clear rules over how to divide the deceased person’s assets. The goal is to avoid protracted litigation and quickly allow the estate’s division.
When a Person Dies Without a Will in New Jersey, the Intestacy Rules Treat Half and Whole Siblings Equally.
The intestacy rules state that if a person dies unmarried, without children or living parents, assets pass equally to siblings. There is no difference in the New Jersey Intestacy Rules between a full or half sibling. In your case, your sister died with two siblings; yourself and your half sister. You each will receive one-half the estate. It does not matter if your sisters never spoke or met.
Opening the Administration.
To secure your sister’s assets, someone must open her estate with the County Surrogate. If your sister had a Will, she could have named Personal Representative. Because she died without a Will, New Jersey as a set of rules that dictate who can now open the estate as an Administration. This person’s title is Administrator. Once appointed, the Administrator has the power to gather your sister’s assets.
The rules require that to open the Administration, you must notify your half-sister. You must provide her the opportunity to participate in the process. You both have equal rights to serve as the Administrator. If you wish to serve as Administrator, your half-sister must either agree or be given the right to disagree in a hearing. Consequently, it will be less confrontational and less expensive if you both were able to cooperate.
Life has now given you the chance to get to know your long lost sister!
In conclusion, you may need legal representation as both a beneficiary and Administrator. My firm focuses on only estate matters. Further, we have attorneys who focus on Probate and attorneys who regularly represent clients in estate litigation. We would be happy to assist you
Feel free to set up a phone conference! Contact our office for a free consultation. We try to make the process as painless as possible.
Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do!
Peter Klenk, Esq., LL.M.