A guide to New Jersey probate laws.
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of “sound mind” can write a will in New Jersey.
Every will must be signed by two witnesses who are "generally competent."
Yes, they can be interested witnesses.
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New Jersey doesn’t have any explicit requirements for choosing an executor, as long as they’re an adult. But a court is allowed to remove an executor if it considers them incompetent, or if the executor has committed fraud.
Out-of-state executors are allowed, but may have to post an executor bond.
Yes, New Jersey allows for a holographic will, but it must be written and signed in the testator’s handwriting.
No, New Jersey is not a community property state.
In a community property state, each spouse has an equal share of property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property.
In New Jersey, when there is no will, the court will determine who receives the intestate estate based on the laws of intestate succession. Usually, the surviving spouse has the first claim.
This is how much a surviving spouse would receive in a few different circumstances:
|If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:||Surviving spouse's share|
|Children from the surviving spouse||Everything|
|No children from any spouse, parents, siblings, nephews/nieces||Everything|
|No children, but surviving parents of the decedent||First 1/4 of the estate, but not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000, plus 3/4 of the remaining intestate estate|
|A child from the surviving spouse, and a child from a previous relationship||First 1/4 of the estate, but not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000, plus 1/2 of the remaining intestate estate|
|Only a child from a previous relationship||First 1/4 of the estate, but not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000, plus 1/2 of the remaining intestate estate|
Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along in the following order:
Children, or their children
Siblings, or their children (nieces/nephews)
Grandparents, or aunts/uncles
For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their children by a per stirpes designation.
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During the testator’s lifetime, the will can be registered, not filed, with the Office of the Secretary of State, which keeps a Will Registry. Registering your will in New Jersey means submitting basic information about your will, not storing the will itself.
The estate can file the will with the local Surrogate’s Court or Superior Court as soon as the testator dies, but it won’t be probated by the court until 10 days after the date of recorded death.
A surviving spouse or registered domemestic partner can use a small estate affidavit to adminster the estate if the gross value does not exceed $50,000. When there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, children or next of kin can use the affidvait if the estate is valued less than $20,000.
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Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in esate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.
Elissa has a B.A. in Film Studies from Barnard College.
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