Kenneth Vercammen is a Middlesex County trial attorney who has published 130 articles in national and New Jersey publications on Criminal Law and litigation topics. He was awarded the NJ State State Bar Municipal Court Practitioner of the Year. He lectures and handles criminal cases, Municipal Court, DWI, traffic and other litigation matters. He is Co Chair of the ABA Criminal Law Committee,GP and was a speaker at the ABA Annual Meeting. To schedule a confidential consultation, email us at VercammenAppointments@NJlaws.com, call or
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Kenneth Vercammen & Associates, P.C.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

3B:8-1 Elective share of surviving spouse of person dying domiciled in this State

What is my share of my spouse's estate if I elect to take against the will of my deceased spouse?

In general, a surviving spouse dissatisfied with his or her share under the will of the deceased spouse may renounce the will and elect to take his or her statutory share of the testator's entire estate. The surviving spouse is entitled to one-third of the estate provided that at the time of death, the surviving spouse and decedent had not been living separate and apart in different habitations. Generally, the surviving spouse must elect to take his/her elective share by filing a complaint within six months after the appointment of a personal representative of the decedent's estate.

Whether to elect to take against a will is a decision that cannot be made without comprehensive information regarding the affairs of the spouses. This is not a matter for self-help and referral to an attorney familiar with estate administration is normally required.

The following is the revised New Jersey Law on Elective share of surviving spouse

NJSA 3B:8-1 Elective share of surviving spouse


3B:8-1 Elective share of surviving spouse or domestic partner of person dying domiciled in this State; conditions.


If a married person or person in a domestic partnership dies domiciled in this State, on or after May 28, 1980, the surviving spouse or domestic partner has a right of election to take an elective share of one-third of the augmented estate under the limitations and conditions hereinafter stated, provided that at the time of death the decedent and the surviving spouse or domestic partner had not been living separate and apart in different habitations or had not ceased to cohabit as man and wife, either as the result of judgment of divorce from bed and board or under circumstances which would have given rise to a cause of action for divorce or nullity of marriage to a decedent prior to his death under the laws of this State.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.7.


3B:8-2. Elective share of surviving spouse or domestic partner of person dying not domiciled in this State.

If a married person or person in a domestic partnership not domiciled in this State dies, the right, if any, of the surviving spouse or domestic partner to take an elective share in property in this State is governed by the law of the decedent's domicile at death.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.8.


3B:8-3. Meaning of "augmented estate."

The "augmented estate" means the estate reduced by funeral and administration expenses, and enforceable claims, to which is added the value of property transferred by the decedent at any time during marriage, or during a domestic partnership, to or for the benefit of any person other than the surviving spouse or domestic partner, to the extent that the decedent did not receive adequate and full consideration in money or money's worth for the transfer, if the transfer is of any of the following types:

a. Any transfer made after May 28, 1980, under which the decedent retained at the time of his death the possession or enjoyment of, or right to income from, the property;

b. Any transfer made after May 28, 1980, to the extent that the decedent retained at the time of his death a power, either alone or in conjunction with any other person, to revoke or to consume, invade or dispose of the principal for his own benefit;

c. Any transfer made after May 28, 1980, whereby property is held at the time of decedent's death by decedent and another with right of survivorship;

d. Any transfer made, after May 28, 1980, if made within 2 years of death of the decedent, to the extent that the aggregate transfers to any one donee in either of the years exceed $3,000.00.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.9.



3B:8-4. Valuing property transferred
Property transferred in the manner set forth in N.J.S. 3B:8-3 is valued as of the decedent's death except that property given irrevocably to a donee during the lifetime of the decedent is valued as of the date the donee came into possession or enjoyment of the property if that occurs first.


3B:8-5. Transfers excluded.

Any transfer of property shall be excluded from the augmented estate under N.J.S. 3B:8-3, if made with the written consent or joinder of the surviving spouse or domestic partner. There shall also be excluded from the augmented estate any life insurance, accident insurance, joint annuity or pension payable to a person other than the surviving spouse or domestic partner.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.10.


3B:8-6. Other property to be included in augmented estate.

There shall also be included in the augmented estate:

a. The value of property owned by the surviving spouse or domestic partner at the time of, or as a result of, the decedent's death to the extent that the property is derived from the decedent by means other than by testate or intestate succession without a full consideration in money or money's worth; and

b. The value of the property described in subsection a. hereof which has been transferred by the surviving spouse or domestic partner at any time during marriage or domestic partnership without a full consideration in money or money's worth to any person other than the decedent which would have been includable in the spouse's or domestic partner's augmented estate if the surviving spouse or domestic partner had predeceased the decedent.

Income earned by included property prior to the decedent's death is not treated as property derived from the decedent.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.11.


3B:8-7. Property derived from decedent.

For the purposes of N.J.S. 3B:8-6, property derived from the decedent includes, but is not limited to, any beneficial interest of the surviving spouse or domestic partner in a trust created by the decedent during his lifetime, any property appointed to the spouse or domestic partner by the decedent's exercise of a general or special power of appointment also exercisable in favor of others than the spouse or domestic partner, any proceeds of insurance, including accidental death benefits on the life of the decedent attributable to premiums paid by him, any lump sum immediately payable and the commuted value of the proceeds of annuity contracts under which the decedent was the primary annuitant attributable to premiums paid by him, the commuted value of amounts payable after the decedent's death under any public or private pension, disability compensation, death benefit or retirement plan, exclusive of the Federal Social Security system, by reason of service performed or disabilities incurred by the decedent, the value of the share of the surviving spouse or domestic partner resulting from rights in community property acquired in any other state formerly owned with the decedent and the value of any rights of dower and curtesy. Premiums paid by the decedent's employer, his partner, a partnership of which he was a member, or his creditors, are deemed to have been paid by the decedent.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.12.


3B:8-8. Valuation of property derived from decedent.

For the purposes of valuing property derived from the decedent as provided in N.J.S. 3B:8-6:

a. Property owned by the spouse or domestic partner at the decedent's death is valued as of the date of decedent's death; and

b. Property transferred by the spouse or domestic partner is valued at the time the transfer became irrevocable, or at the decedent's death, whichever occurs first.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.13.

3B:8-9. Presumption as to property owned or previously transferred by spouse or domestic partner at decedent's death.

Property owned by the surviving spouse or domestic partner as of the decedent's death, or previously transferred by the surviving spouse or domestic partner, is presumed to have been derived from the decedent except to the extent that any party in interest establishes that it was derived from another source.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.14.


3B:8-10. Waiving right to an elective share.

The right of election of a surviving spouse or domestic partner and the rights of the surviving spouse or domestic partner may be waived, wholly or partially, before or after marriage before, on or after May 28, 1980, by a written contract, agreement or waiver, signed by the party waiving after fair disclosure. Unless it provides to the contrary, a waiver of "all rights" (or equivalent language) in the property or estate of a present or prospective spouse or domestic partner or a complete property settlement entered into after or in anticipation of separation, divorce or termination of a domestic partnership is a waiver of all rights to an elective share by each spouse or domestic partner in the property of the other and a renunciation by each of all benefits which would otherwise pass to him from the other by intestate succession or by virtue of the provisions of any will executed before the waiver or property settlement.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.15.

3B:8-11. Who may exercise the right to take an elective share.

The right of election to take an elective share by a surviving spouse or domestic partner may be exercised only during his lifetime. In the case of a surviving spouse or domestic partner for whom the court has appointed a guardian to manage his estate, the right of election may be exercised only by order of the court making the appointment after finding that the election is necessary to provide adequate support of the surviving spouse or domestic partner during his probable life expectancy.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.16.

3B:8-12. Filing complaint for elective share; extension of time.

The surviving spouse or domestic partner may elect to take his elective share in the augmented estate by filing a complaint in the Superior Court within 6 months after the appointment of a personal representative of the decedent's estate. The court may, before the time for election has expired and upon good cause shown by the surviving spouse or domestic partner, extend the time for election upon notice to persons interested in the estate and to distributees and recipients of portions of the augmented estate whose interests will be adversely affected by the taking of the elective share.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.17.

3B:8-13. Notice of hearing.

The surviving spouse or domestic partner shall give notice of the time and place set for hearing to persons interested in the estate and to the distributees and recipients of portions of the augmented estate whose interests will be adversely affected by the taking of the elective share.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.18.

3B:8-14 Withdrawal of demand for an elective share.


The surviving spouse or domestic partner may withdraw his demand for an elective share at any time before entry of a final judgment by the court.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.19.

3B:8-15. Fixing amount of elective share; payment of elective share
The court shall determine the amount of the elective share and shall order its payment from the assets of the augmented estate or by contribution as appears appropriate in the manner as hereinafter set forth in this chapter. If it appears that a fund or property included in the augmented estate has not come into the possession of the personal representative, or has been distributed by the personal representative, the court nevertheless shall fix the liability of any person who has any interest in the fund or property or who has possession thereof, whether as trustee or otherwise. The proceeding may be maintained against fewer than all persons against whom relief could be sought, but no person is subject to contribution in any greater amount than he would have been if relief had been secured against all persons subject to contribution.


3B:8-16. Enforcing judgment
The judgment of the court made pursuant to N.J.S. 3B:8-15 may be enforced as other judgments are enforced by law.


3B:8-17. Value of surviving spouse's or domestic partner's interest in any life estate.

3B:8-17. Value of surviving spouse's or domestic partner's interest in any life estate.
In an action for an elective share, the electing spouse's or domestic partner's total or proportional beneficial interest in any life estate in real or personal property or in any trust shall be valued at one-half of the total value of the property or trust or of the portion of the property or trust subject to the life estate.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.20.


3B:8-18. Satisfaction of elective share.

The amount of the surviving spouse's or domestic partner's elective share shall be satisfied by applying:

a. The value of all property, estate or interest therein, owned by the surviving spouse or domestic partner in his own right at the time of the decedent's death from whatever source acquired, or succeeded to by the surviving spouse or domestic partner as a result of decedent's death notwithstanding that the property, estate or interest or part thereof, succeeded to by the surviving spouse or domestic partner as the result of decedent's death has been renounced by the surviving spouse or domestic partner;

b. The value of the property described in subsection b. of N.J.S. 3B:8-6, and

c. The remaining property of the augmented estate is so applied that liability for the balance of the elective share of the surviving spouse or domestic partner is equitably apportioned among the recipients of the augmented estate in proportion to the value of their interests therein.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.21.


3B:8-19. Persons subject to contribution.

Only original transferees from, or appointees of, the decedent and their donees, to the extent the donees have the property or its proceeds, are subject to the contribution to make up the elective share of the surviving spouse or domestic partner. A person liable to contribution may choose to give up the property transferred to him or to pay its value as fixed in the manner provided in N.J.S. 3B:8-4.

Amended 2005, c.331, s.22.
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Assistant Editor: Umair Hussain