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What happens when there is no will?

When a New Jersey resident dies without a will, then the laws of this state determine who gets what share of his or her property. These rules also apply when the person's will is invalid or if the will does not provide for a particular piece of the person's overall estate.

These rules do not apply, however, to property held in trust or that would otherwise pass outside of the probate and estate administration process.

The specific rules, sometimes referred to as the laws of intestate succession, are somewhat detailed. This is why New Jersey residents with specific questions should ask an experienced probate and estate attorney about them.

However, to give an overview, the law gives high priority to a person's surviving spouse or domestic partner. If the person who dies has no children, or only has children with his or her spouse, then the surviving spouse may receive the entire estate. In any event, the surviving spouse, if there is any, will get the lion's share of a person's property by operation of law.

Otherwise, a New Jersey resident's property will ordinarily pass to his or her children should he or she have any. If a person has no children, then New Jersey law will require that the property go to the person's parents and then to other relatives.

While the best way to make sure that one's wealth gets passed along as he or she would like is to create an estate plan, sometimes a person just does not get around to doing it. An intestate estate, that is, one in which there is no will, can present its own share of legal complications, but with the right assistance, a family can see to it that it is properly administered.

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