Upon the death of a person, an estate is administered according to the terms of a Will. However, in many cases, the loved one will pass away without leaving a Will. Such a scenario obviously brings up the question about how the loved one’s estate will be distributed. To answer the question, courts have developed what is called intestacy proceedings. Intestacy proceedings determine (a) what parts of the estate will be distributed and (b) where it will go.
Each state has a specific set of rules for when a loved one dies without a Will. This is a somewhat complicated process, and a very simplified version of the order of distribution is laid out below. It should be noted that it is always a good idea to consult an experienced Wills and Estates attorney if you find yourself in such a situation.
When a loved one passes away without a Will, the estate will be distributed to surviving relatives in the following order:
- First, to the deceased’s spouse, if the spouse survives and they never had any children;
- Then, to only the children if the spouse has not survived; or to the spouse and children in equal shares if both are still alive;
- Then, to the deceased’s parents, if there are no above surviving relatives;
- Then, to the deceased’s siblings, if there are no above surviving relatives
- Then, to the deceased’s grandparents, if there are no above surviving relatives
- Then, to the deceased’s uncles and aunts, if there are no above surviving relatives
- Finally, if there are no surviving relatives at all, then the estate escheats, or goes to a State.
In addition to the order set forth above, intestacy proceedings also deal with many other issues. For instance, a valuation of the entire estate must occur to determine what will be distributed. Each state also has special rules for adopted children, half-blood relatives, children born out of wedlock, children conceived before but born after the loved one passes away, and other issues.
What you can do?
An intestacy proceeding is a very complicated process. It is important to consult an experienced attorney to better understand what is needed and what alternatives exist. If a loved one has recently passed away without a Will and you have any questions, then please call an experienced in your locality. One can be found on attorneypages.com.