Am I Entitled to Part of My Biological Parent’s Estate?

It’s perfectly natural to wonder what your rights are to your deceased parent’s estate. Well, the reality is that there’s no straightforward answer – it changes from case to case. Here’s some insight into this emotional and complex issue from an estate planning attorney in New Jersey:

  • Did Your Parent Die Without a Last Will and Testament?

If your parent had a valid Last Will and Testament at the time of their death, then whatever is contained in that document is legally binding. This means that their assets pass to their heirs in accordance with the instructions contained in the Will, regardless of who is mentioned or who is not. In some cases, a Will can be contested and your estate planning attorney will be able to determine whether or not you have a case.

However, when a person dies intestate (in other words without a valid Will) then it is a completely different story. In these cases, beneficiaries of the estate are determined by the courts in accordance with state law. These laws will not take into account anything other than a valid Last Will and Testament, so it doesn’t matter if a person has spoken about their wishes or not. This is why it’s incredibly important to have a professionally-drafted Last Will and Testament.

In these cases, beneficiaries are designated from immediate family outwards. For example, if a parent dies leaving a spouse and children of that spouse, the spouse inherits 25% (no less than $50,000 and no more than $200,000, plus ½ the remaining balance) and the rest is split equally amongst the children. If someone dies without a spouse but has children, the assets are split equally amongst the children.

  • Assets That Pass Without a Will

In some cases, assets can pass directly to a child without regard to the Last Will and Testament. This is often the case with property, where a child is named on the deed of the property. In this case, the property belongs to the person named on the deed and this cannot be affected by a Will, as you can’t grant assets you do not own legally. The same is true of the named beneficiary on an insurance policy or 401k.

Again, this makes it very important to have a professional-drafted Will, as having conflicting legal documents can lead to confusion and infighting in what is usually a very emotional time. An estate planning attorney will not only ensure that everything is perfectly clear in your own estate plan, but will also assist you with understanding and representing you in a claim against a poorly-drafted Will.

Understand Your Rights – Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney in New Jersey

At Sedita, Campisano and Campisano in New Jersey, estate planning attorney Frank Campisano is ready to assist you with all your estate planning needs, whether you need to draft a business succession plan, a personal estate plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate. He can also assist in the event of Will disputes.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your needs are big or small. For more information, please visit our website at

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