By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Estate & Probate Administration Attorney
Recently we learned that a death certificate, issued by the State of Hawaii, did not show the domicile or last address of the deceased N.J. resident. Instead it merely identified her as a citizen of the United States. The decedent was visiting Hawaii and died in her hotel room. The death was determined to be of natural causes. When the Executor took the Will (which shows a Bergen County domicile) to the Surrogate, she was advised that the Will could not be admitted to probate because the death certificate did not show a domicile. When I called the Hawaii Health Department, I was advised that the information on the death certificate was proper and that domicile is not routinely included on this document.
In the last years before her death, the decedent had several different addresses, including one in Monmouth County NJ, where she resided at the time she filed her last income tax return. Her driver’s license showed a Colorado address, where she lived prior to living in Monmouth County. Subsequently she returned to Bergen County and was living there with her children at the time of her trip to Hawaii.
How I can get this Will admitted in Bergen County when the clerk will not look past the death certificate? The estate is small and our client has advised me that once the creditors are paid, she expects that there will be little or no money left for the decedent’s beneficiaries – her three adult daughters. Someone has suggested abandoning the attempt to probate the Will and waiting for the funds in the decedent’s bank accounts (total of about $50,000) to escheat to the State of New Jersey and then try to collect them.
I remember a matter years ago involving a decedent who was an Ocean County NJ resident who died in California visiting his daughter. The death certificate listed CA as his residence (he was planning to move out to live with the daughter but it had not been finalized at the time of her death). After learning it would take months for California to correct the death certificate, we submitted his will to probate in Ocean County with an affidavit of domicile from the executor and a disinterested witness who verified his domicile.
Will Bergen County accept the same proofs? It will be worth a shot. I’ll let you know the outcome.
To discuss your NJ Estate & Probate Administration matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.