What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

Dying without a will means the person died intestate. In such cases, the decedent’s state’s intestacy laws will govern the distribution of the deceased person’s properties. The assets included are real estate, securities, bank accounts and others. If property is located in another state, then that state’s intestacy laws will be followed in relation to the distribution of that property.

Intestate succession depends on a person’s specific status such as if they are married or single, with children or no children, parents are still alive or no longer living, etc. The most common heirs include the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, nephews, nieces and certain distant relatives. If a deceased person has no known surviving relative, their estate goes to the state.

Single With No Children

The parents of a single person with no child stand to inherit this person’s entire estate. If only one parent is surviving, then the estate will be divided between the living parent and the deceased siblings.

If there are no surviving parents, the siblings will inherit the entire estate in equal shares.

If there are no surviving parents, siblings or children of siblings, one half of the estate goes to the relatives from the mother’s side of the family and the other half to the relatives from the father’s side.

Single With Children

If a single person has children, then everything goes to the children upon the person’s death, divided equally among them. If the children died before the parent, then the children’s children or the grandchildren will inherit from their grandparent.

Married With No Children

If your properties are community properties, then the entire property goes to the surviving spouse. If it is separate property, it will be divided among the spouse, parents and siblings of the deceased.

Married With Children

If all the children are the decedent and the surviving spouse’s children, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse. If not, then half will go to the surviving spouse and the other half will be given to the surviving children from another partner or spouse.

Unmarried Couples

For unmarried couples living together, the surviving partner generally may not stand to inherit anything if a partner dies without a will. The reason for this is that the law only recognizes relatives. Therefore, without a will, the estate will be divided among the relatives of the decedent, excluding the partner.

Domestic Partners

Some states recognize domestic partnerships and treat the domestic partners as that of a spouse. Since not all states recognize such a union, it is best to check with the state’s laws that apply to you.

Check your state’s estate planning laws to find out what laws apply in your case. It is best to consult with an estate planning attorney who can give you more information and guidance regarding what will happen, particularly the consequences of dying without a will.

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