What to do if my father died without leaving a Will?

UPDATED: May 18, 2013

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What to do if my father died without leaving a Will?

His spouse, who is not my mother and produced no children by him has not probated his estate which consists of real estate solely in his name as well as bank accounts, vehicles and personal property. She is slowly dispursing these assets to children from her first marriage and her family members. My sister and I, my dad’s only biological children, have not even been offered as much as a keepsake. Are we not entitled to 50% of these sole assets and can we request she shepherd his estate into probate at her expense? My sister and I did have a relationship with my dad until his death earlier this year.

Asked on May 18, 2013 under Estate Planning, New Jersey


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  I think that you should take the bull by the horns so to speak and go to the probate court and file to become the Personal Representative of the estate as soon as possible.  New Jersey intestacy laws (those that apply when a person dies with out a WIll) provide for just this circumstance: if one or more of the deceased’s surviving descendants is not the descendant of the surviving spouse (the surviving spouse is the step-mom or dad), the surviving spouse receives the first 25% of the intestate estate, but not less than $50,000.00 nor more than $200,000.00, plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate. The remainder passes to the decedent’s descendants. So she has no right to it all.  Good luck.

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