When an employee dies, state law permits an employer to pay to a deceased employee's surviving spouse all wages due (NJ Rev. Stat. Sec. 34:11-4.5). If there is no surviving spouse, other individuals may be paid according to the order of preference provided in the law. The employer may require proof of a person's relationship to the deceased employee, but additional proof from the probate court is not required. Note: The law applies only if an employer has not received actual notice of pending probate proceedings.
Wages must be paid in the following order of preference:
2. Children 18 years of age and over in equal shares, or to the guardian of children under 18 years of age;
3. Father and mother, or to the surviving parent;
4. Sisters and brothers; or
5. The person who pays the funeral expenses.
Once payment is made, the employer is released from any further obligation for the amount paid. If problems develop in determining who should receive payment, or if some claim has been made against the funds, an employer should contact the local probate court for assistance.