Dying without a will: Who gets what?

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Dying Without A Will Who Gets What

A will lays out how a New Jersey resident wants their property distributed upon their death. This means if someone dies without creating a will, the intestacy laws of that state dictate how property will be handled. This means the decedent’s bank accounts, real estate, securities and all other assets will be allocated to someone in a manner the decedent had probably not intended.

Intestacy laws differ state by state and whether the person was single or married, had children or siblings. Property is generally split up between heirs and if no one is found, then it goes to the estate.

If the decedent was single and without children but has living parents, they will inherit everything. If there is only one parent and siblings, then the estate will be divided between them and if there are no parents, then the whole estate is divided equally between them. If someone is single and has children, then they will get equal shares of the estate. If someone is married and doesn’t have children, then depending on how one’s assets are owned, it might entirely go to one’s spouse or be divided between spouse, parents and siblings. If the person is married with children with the current spouse, then the surviving spouse inherits everything otherwise children from another partner also get a share in the property. Couples who are in domestic partnerships or are unmarried may find themselves completely financially and emotionally if their partner dies without taking steps to protect their inheritance.

Losing a loved one is difficult enough and it can become immensely complicated if family members and loved ones have to leave the residential house or suddenly find themselves without anything. Ensuring loved ones are taken care of after one’s death is an important part of estate planning, but there are other tools that can also be utilized.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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