New Jersey probate: Spouses don't always get everything

When it comes to the distribution of assets after a spouse's death, things can get complicated. The surviving spouse doesn't always get everything in a probate. Who gets what in a probate depends on several things, the least of which is whether or not the deceased spouse has a will.

If there is a will, then the decedent's assets will be distributed accordingly. However, if there is no will, the state of New Jersey may be making those decisions. If that is the case, the surviving spouse will most likely not get all of the assets.

The other consideration is how non-probate assets are handled. Non-probate assets consist of assets that are owned by a trust, jointly owned or require a designation of a beneficiary. Anything that is jointly owned with a spouse will automatically pass to the surviving spouse, as will any asset of which the spouse is a beneficiary. However, if the decedent had any non-probate assets that were not jointly owned with his or her spouse, they would pass to the other party, not the spouse. Also, many people will provide things such as life insurance policies for others such as children.

When it comes to probate and non-probate assets, people in New Jersey may want to review how they have titled all of their assets. In order to make sure that a person's assets are going to end up with the person or persons desired, it may be necessary to make periodic changes to that person's estate plan. If one spouse's intention is to leave everything to his or her spouse, it may be beneficial to conduct a thorough review of everything and make changes accordingly.

Source:, ESTATE PLANNING: 'What do you mean I don't get it all? We were married', Christopher W. Yugo, Oct. 5, 2013

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