If my mom recently died do we need a lawyer to settle her estate?

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If my mom recently died do we need a lawyer to settle her estate?

My sister is threatening getting an attorney. I cared for my mom for the last 30 years of her life and the house is in my name. My mom literally had nothing except SS money every month. There was no Will except a video Will which mainly went over her belongings and her funeral mass. I am wondering if I need to put out money for a lawyer to settle things? That would essentially use up whatever insurance money that was left.

Asked on June 9, 2014 under Estate Planning, New Jersey

Answers:

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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  If your Mother had no written Will - which is required in New Jersey - then she essentially dies intestate and the intestacy laws will apply.  The video of her wishes would be nice to follow but may not be legally binding on the fiduciary (person appointed to handle her estate). If the house was in your name alone (or your and your Mothers with rights of survivorship) then it is not part of her estate. It passed to you automatically upon her death. If the insurance did not name a beneficiary then it is part of the estate.  New Jersey allows for a Small Estate Administration. If a Decedent leaves no spouse and next of kin (you and your sister) and if the total value of the real and personal property of the decedent does not exceed $10,000.00 one of the next of kin, with the consent of the others, may file an Affidavit of Next of Kin in lieu of Administration.  If the amount exceeds the $10,000 then you may have to file an estate.  It may be a good idea to consult with an attorney on a flat fee basis about the estate.  Bring your sister since she has equal rights to what is left of Mom's probate estate and it may calm her fears.  Good luck.


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