Administrator of a Non-resident decedent estate’s wrongful death action

In the Matter of the Estate of Baumiester, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-5041-09T1, the Court addressed the issue of who should be Administrator over a Non-resident decedent estate’s wrongful death action.

The decedent died in an automobile accident in New Jersey. At the time of his death, he was a resident of Maryland and on his way to New York for paternity proceedings wherein he was declared the father of a daughter. The decedent’s mother applied for letters of administration in Maryland since the decedent died without a Will. His daughter’s (Nicole) mother applied for letters of administration in New Jersey. Thereafter, both women received letters of administration and both commenced wrongful death actions.

Here, in New Jersey, the Law Division dismissed the decedent’s mother’s complaint in favor of the complaint filed by the decedent’s daughter’s mother. However, in its review of the matter, the Appellate Division first noted that Baumiester was a Non-resident decedent. Thus, since New Jersey’s intestacy laws play no role in determining a non-domiciliary decedent’s line of succession, the Law Division should not have relied upon New Jersey law in reaching its decision. Maryland law would reach the same conclusion that the daughter would be entitled to the estate as his surviving child. Nevertheless, the Appellate Division, however, held that the decedent’s mother should be allowed to prosecute the wrongful death action because she was appointed Maryland, the State where the decedent resided.