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Who Are Next Of Kin In New Jersey?

“Next of kin” as used in the New Jersey probate statutes does not merely mean the closest relatives of the decedent, but all of decedent’s relatives entitled under the statute of descent and distribution to share in the decedent’s estate.  In re Estate of Mellet, 108 N.J. Super.181.

Therefore, under the statute of descent and distribution, next of kin in New Jersey are:

  1. Surviving spouse or domestic partner
  2. Descendants
  3. Parents
  4. Grandparents
  5. Descendants of grandparents
  6. Step-children or their descendants

 

Who Inherits From An Intestate Estate in New Jersey?

Because “next of kin” under New Jersey statutory law means who is entitled under the statute of descent and distribution to share in the decedent’s estate, one needs to understand who qualifies as the next of kin when a New Jersey decedent dies intestate (without a will).

Whether or not you are entitled to inherit as the next of kin depends on the other people who survived the decedent.

Survivors of Decedent

Share of Intestate Estate

Surviving spouse or domestic partner, no surviving parents or descendants

100% to spouse or domestic partner

Surviving spouse or domestic partner, and all of decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse or domestic partner and there is no other descendant of the surviving spouse or domestic partner who survives the decedent

100% to spouse or domestic partner

Surviving spouse or domestic partner and a parent

Surviving spouse inherits the first 25% (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus 3/4 of the balance; parent receives the rest

Surviving spouse, and all of decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse or domestic partner, and the surviving spouse or domestic partner has one or more surviving descendants who are not descendants of the decedent

Surviving spouse inherits the first 25% (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus 1/2 of the balance

descendants inherit everything else

Surviving spouse, and one or more of decedent’s surviving descendants is not a descendant of the surviving spouse or domestic partner

Surviving spouse inherits the first 25% (but not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000), plus 1/2 of the balance

descendants inherit everything else

Descendants, no surviving spouse or domestic partner

100% to descendants by representation

Parents, no descendants or surviving spouse or domestic partner

To parents equally if both survive, or to surviving parent

Descendants of parents, no surviving parents, descendants, surviving spouse or domestic partner

100% to descendants of parents

Grandparents, no surviving Descendants of parents, no surviving parents, descendants, surviving spouse or domestic partner

50% to paternal grandparents, other 50% to maternal

Descendants of grandparents

Descendants take equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent, but if of unequal degree those of more remote degree take by representation

Step-children or their descendants

Take by representation

The information in the above chart can be found in NJ Rev Stat § 3B:5-3 and § 3B:5-4.

Survival Requirement For Intestate Heirs To Inherit Under New Jersey Law

Under New Jersey law, in order to inherit from a decedent’s intestate estate, a next of kin heir must survive the decedent by 120 hours.  Section 3B:5-1 states:

For the purposes of intestate succession an individual who is not established by clear and convincing evidence to have survived the decedent by 120 hours is deemed to have predeceased the decedent. This section is not to be applied where its application would result in a taking of intestate estate by the State.

What Assets Does A New Jersey Next of Kin Inherit?

Status as next of kin under New Jersey law does not mean that you automatically inherit assets.

First, if decedent died with a valid will, the terms of the will control the disposition of decedent’s assets.

Second, decedent may not have any probate assets.  See Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.  If decedent’s assets were held in joint ownership or in accounts with beneficiary designations, then there will not be any assets of the intestate estate for the next of kin heirs to inherit under New Jersey law.

For any questions regarding your status as next of kin, consult a New Jersey probate lawyer.