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New Jersey inheritance: You don't have to be family to get it all

Back in 1959, a 13-year-old boy's brother threw a snowball at a tree and missed. It may surprise some in New Jersey to know that chance encounter over a snowball led to a lifetime friendship between that young boy and the friend of the girl that snow ball ended up hitting. In May 2008, that friendship ended with the man that was that teenage boy receiving an unexpected inheritance.

About a year after that day in 1959, that same young boy began mowing the woman's lawn. They became friends and spent so much time together over the years that the man's children considered her an aunt. She was there for him when he was alone, going through a divorce, having children and remarrying.

He was also there for her over the years. He was even at her bedside when she died of cancer in 2008. What he didn't expect was to be the executor of her will and the woman's primary beneficiary. He has a shed containing all of the items that were left to him by his lifelong friend, and even though he still hasn't been through all of the items, he has no desire to get rid of any of them.

Even though this woman had no family to leave her estate to, it should be noted that there is also no requirement to leave anything to family in a will -- though surviving spouses may have some elective rights. New Jersey residents may be relieved to know that whether someone receives an inheritance is typically the choice of the party giving away the items. As long as the decedent has a valid will at the time of his or her death, his or her wishes will usually be honored.

Source: TribToday.com, "An unusual inheritance," Ashley Newman, May 6, 2013

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