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Will I have to share my dad’s estate with my siblings?


Q. My father left no will. I’m the oldest of three children. Do we legally have to split proceeds from the home three ways? I paid the mortgage off during a 16-year period. Are my rights equal to the other two siblings?
— Sibling

A. You didn’t mention your mom, so we’re going to assume there is no surviving spouse.

With no surviving spouse and no will, you and your siblings each have an equal right to seek appointment as administrator of your father’s estate.

For you to be appointed, you would have to get “renunciations” from your siblings, said Tom Szieber, a trusts and estates attorney at Herold Law in Warren.

A renunciation is a document in which they decline the right to serve, Szieber said.

“Without such renunciations, the questioner would need to provide 10 days’ notice of his or her application to his or her siblings who live in New Jersey — 60 days to any who live outside of New Jersey,” he said. “Application costs can vary from county to county, but are usually not exorbitant.”

If appointed, you would need to post a surety bond as security for the faithful performance of your fiduciary duties, he said. The amount of the bond will be decided by the surrogate of the county in which the application was made and based on the value of the estate. The surety bond must be signed by the administrator as principal and his/her signature must be witnessed, Szieber said.

Then, the mortgage.

“Unless the questioner can prove that the payment was in the form of a loan to his or her father — and is therefore a debt of the estate — as opposed to a gift, then he or she and his or her siblings would each be entitled to one-third of the estate that remains after the satisfaction of all estate debts and obligations,” he said.

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This story was originally published on Sept. 22, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.