Father recently passes away. He and his new wife lived on my moms family farm. Is she entitled to any of the farm. No will, 3 biological children.

Asked on June 8, 2009 under Estate Planning, Iowa


J.V., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

When you die without a will, you die intestate. If you die intestate, the laws in the state where you live at your time of death control the distribution of your assets. If you have property in more than one state, the laws of the state where the property is located will determine distribution. The state may appoint a lawyer to oversee the distribution of your estate and that lawyer will be paid out of your estate's assets. The state may even claim your property if you have no apparent heirs. If you do have heirs, they may be forced to pay sizable taxes in order to keep any of your property. The state also will appoint a person they feel is a suitable guardian for any minor children you may have left behind.

Because you have not expressed your wishes, the state will substitute its own judgment regarding the distribution of assets to the following people:

  • Your spouse: Most states provide a certain share of the estate to the surviving spouse. This amount is usually taken off the top before any claims by creditors and other heirs are paid. Many states also give the surviving spouse an interest in any real estate owned by the decedent.
  • Your children: If you have children, they also will receive a portion of your estate. The amount can depend on whether your spouse was also their biological parent, whether you have children from a previous marriage, whether your spouse is deceased and other factors. If you do not have a will, minor children could end up with a large sum of money. In these situations, the court normally will appoint a guardian to manage the money until your children reach 18.
  • Your parents and siblings: If you are unmarried and have no children, your estate will go to your parent(s) or, if they have both died, to your brothers and sisters. Similarly, if you are married but have no children, a portion of your estate remaining after your spouse receives his or her share will go to your parents, or if they have both died, to your brothers and sisters.

If you have no spouse or children or grandchildren, your parents (or their descendents such as your siblings or nieces and nephews) will inherit everything. So unfortunatley I cannot tell you how things will turn out but you should make sure to get the Will probated as quickly as possible to get the ball rolling

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