Princeton, NJ asked in Estate Planning and Family Law for New Jersey

Q: Legal next of kin of a deceased missing

My niece whom I haven't had contacts for over 10 years just passed away in New Jersey. She is single and both of her parents are deceased. She has one son 25 years ago when she was an unwed teenager and she gave him to his father to raise. I am not aware if they have any relationship and I don't know his name. The police tried to find him but so far they haven't had any update after a week and the search is still open. Can we go ahead and bury my niece without getting into any legal troubles? Also all we want is to give her a proper burial. I am not interested in taking over her finance or manage her estate (she owes money on child support, collection agencies and rent). My questions are whether we need to wait until the police completed their search before we bury her, do we take on any additional liability by burying her, and finally which type of lawyers with the specialties in this area can I speak to about this?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Diamond
Richard Diamond
  • Short Hills, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: It sounds like her estate is comprised of debt as opposed to assets and presuming I am correct, not sure how you can take what remains of her assets to pay for her funeral costs while not using that same money for payment of her outstanding secured debts ( ie child support).

While your niece gave up custody of her child to the father many years ago, it also sounds as if he took her to court at some point to get an order for the payment of child support, which I gather has been in place for years and potentially, there are arrears outstanding ( which would have priority for payment purposes on debts).

My suggestion is that unless you are willing to pay for her funeral costs out of your own pocket, I would schedule a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in estate litigation/estate planning to discuss her debt setting and the payment of the funeral costs before you obligate yourself to pay for same or promising to have the estate pay for it.

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