NJ Rev Stat § 3B:10-2 governs who has priority to serve as administrator of a New Jersey estate and to whom letters of administration are granted when someone dies intestate (without a valid will) and states:
If any person dies intestate, administration of the intestate’s estate shall be granted to the surviving spouse or domestic partner of the intestate, if he or she will accept the administration, and, if not, or if there be no surviving spouse or domestic partner, then to the remaining heirs of the intestate, or some of them, if they or any of them will accept the administration, and, if none of them will accept the administration, then to any other person as will accept the administration.
If the intestate leaves no heirs justly entitled to the administration of his estate, or if his heirs shall not claim the administration within 40 days after the death of the intestate, the Superior Court or surrogate’s court may grant letters of administration to any fit person applying therefor.
Therefore, the order of priority for appointment as administrator of a New Jersey estate (if willing to serve) is:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Descendants of grandparents
- Step-children or their descendants
- Any other person
This order is the same as those entitled to inherit as intestate heirs when someone dies intestate in New Jersey.
Who Is Entitled To Serve as Executor Of a New Jersey Estate?
If someone dies with a valid will under New Jersey law, then the person named as the executor has priority to serve as the executor of the New Jersey estate.
If the named executor in the will does not want to serve as executor, then the nominated successor can so serve if willing and qualified to do so.
If no one nominated in the will wants to serve, then the order of priority for an administrator of a New Jersey intestate estate will generally be followed.
Remember, probate is a process that can take a year or more in New Jersey (see How Long Does Probate Take In New Jersey?). The appointment of the executor or administrator is the first step in that process, and can set the tone for the efficiency of the probate going forward – working with a skilled New Jersey probate lawyer is also key for the most efficient probate possible.