The State of New Jersey Inherits, Second Cousins Don’t

In the Matter of the Estate of Rosenthal, No. P-461-18 (N.J. Super. Ct. Ch. Div., Mar. 6, 2019). 

Sally Rosenthal died intestate, with no spouse or children. After a genealogical search for the Sally’s family members, the investigator concluded that Sally’s only surviving relatives that could be found were second cousins and second cousins, once removed on Sally’s maternal side.

The administrators of the estate sought to compel distribution of the estate assets to those relatives.

The State of New Jersey argued that the assets should be delivered to the unclaimed property administrator because the individuals identified were not “heirs” under the appropriate statutes. Id. at *3.

The trial court agreed with the State of New Jersey. The court concluded that, under New Jersey intestacy law, the relatives at issue were beyond the required degree of consanguinity – i.e., intestate distribution was not permitted beyond the third parentela, which included grandparents and those grandparents’ descendants. The court ruled that the individuals identified were ineligible for distribution from the estate because they were all second cousins and second cousins once removed, descendants of the Sally’s great-grandparents. Id. at *6-7.