When a person dies, his or her estate typically passes to his or her spouse, unless that individual is unmarried, widowed or leaves specific instructions stating that assets should go elsewhere. When a spouse is left out of a will, he or she can either accept it or, according to the state of New Jersey, may be entitled to claim an elective share. Doing the latter can lead to estate litigation.
What exactly is an elective share? This is a surviving spouse's right to seek up to one-third of his or her husband's or wife's augmented estate. An augmented estate is the value of the state minus any estate administration expenses, funeral costs and the payment of any valid claims.
An elective share may not be sought if spouses were living apart or if pre or postnuptial agreements specifically waive the rights to claim this benefit. Certain assets may be excluded from the estate if the deceased properly assigned beneficiaries to specific accounts. A claim for an elective share may be denied if it is filed outside of the allowable timeframe.
When an elective share claim is made, the estate administration process may come to a standstill until the issue is resolved. It may be possible to negotiate a fair resolution to the matter or estate litigation may prove necessary. Whether you are a spouse looking to claim an elective share or a named beneficiary looking to oppose such a claim, legal counsel can assist you in resolving the matter as swiftly as possible. To learn more about how an experienced New Jersey-based attorney can help you with an estate-related issue, please take a moment and visit our firm's website.