When a parent dies without a Will, what are their children’s rights to their estate?

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When a parent dies without a Will, what are their children’s rights to their estate?

I live in a home my parents purchased jointly. When my mother died, my disabled father, disabled younger brother and I moved into the home (about 3 years ago). Ever since I have been the sole caretaker of my father, brother and the home with the financial help of my father’s and brother’s disability. My father passed away last week leaving no Will and now my stepsiblings on my father’s side (who have had nothing to do with the home or my father’s caretaking) have descended upon me wanting to split the home equally (8 ways including myself). Do they have a legal right to that? What can I do to save my home?

Asked on June 3, 2013 under Estate Planning, West Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is not your home, legally speaking, unfortunately, since your father did not give it to you while he was alive, or will it to go to you after his death. Instead, since there is no will, the home will pass by "intestate succession." In your state, this means that it goes equally to all the children of your father. In practice, unless you all work something out by which one of you buys out the interests of the others, the home will be sold and the proceeds divided equally. The fact that you helped care for your father or live there has no bearing on how it passes after his death.


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