By: Katherine On: December 6, 2016 In: Uncategorized Comments: 147
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Many people put off creating a will for years, but what happens if you die without one?

Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, you should consider creating a will or trust. When a person dies without a will, an already difficult situation can become a complicated legal mess for the person’s loved ones.

When the State is Involved

When a person dies without a will, it is said that the person died “intestate.” Each state has intestacy laws in place which determine who is entitled to the deceased’s property and assets.

While intestacy laws vary slightly from state to state, they generally follow the same path, especially for smaller estates. If someone dies without a will but owns no property and has assets of less than $100,000, no formal court proceeding is required. Family members can file a Declaration of Small Estate through a bank, or even the DMV, and are then allowed to collect and split the deceased’s assets.

If property is involved, however, collecting the estate becomes more complicated.

When Property & Relationships Are Involved

When a person dies without a will and owns property, the process varies considerably based on the deceased’s relationship status.

If the person who dies without a will is single with or without children, the process is generally easier than if the deceased is married or has a domestic partner.

What If the Person Who Dies Without a Will is Single?

If a person who is not married dies without a will, the person’s estate goes to his or her child or is split evenly between multiple children.

If the person who dies without a will has no children, then the estate goes to his or her parents. If the parents are deceased, the estate is split among siblings.

What If the Person Who Dies Without a Will is Married?

State laws vary far more widely if a person dies without a will and leaves behind a spouse or domestic partner, children, and other relatives.

If there are children in the relationship, they may inherit up to two-thirds of the estate while the spouse receives the remainder.

If there are no children in the relationship, the surviving spouse may inherit the entire estate — or, depending on the state, as little as one-third of the property and assets, with the rest going to the parents and siblings of the deceased.

Intestacy Laws Around the World

In ancient times, if a person died and left no clear heirs, kings or other rulers would claim the deceased’s estate as their own.

In some ways, that rule is still in effect — if the deceased has no living relatives, his or her property and assets get turned over to the state.

Many countries around the world have intestacy laws similar to those of the United States, including Canada, England, Wales, and Ireland. Other countries do not have explicit intestacy laws, but many family members of people who die without wills can successfully claim ownership of their deceased relatives’ estates.

Note: This page is for general informational purposes only. LLS cannot give personal legal advice to any individual. Please contact an attorney with any questions.

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1 year ago

my dad passed away 6 years ago and my family took and sold off everything that my dad had said is mine. He said that my two older brothers had had their share and opportunities which they squandered off and walked away from that i was to inherit the business and what ever is left if he passed. my greedy brothers and mother took and sold everything leaving me with nothing even though i told them about what my dad had said they still did as they pleased. Do i have ground to stand on to take them to court or can someone please help me with advice on what to do ?

6 months ago
Reply to  Quintin

Dam, bro. That’s terrible. I wouldn’t talk to them again, if you call a lawyer they can help you.

11 months ago

My sister passed away two years ago while living with me in South Carolina. It involved a vehicle and ultimately the driver was charged with voluntary manslaughter. She had no will and not much property besides clothes, books and a few trinkets. My father lives across the country in Oregon. He flew here to help me deal with funeral arrangements and while here decided he wanted to contact a lawyer to get an insurance payout from the vehicle that was involved. Because he lives so far away and not near good cell service he and the lawyer decided it would be in the cases best interest if I became executive of my sisters estate. In South Carolina my sisters inheritance will go to my father and my mother. The problem is my mother is estranged and hasn’t been a part of our lives for years. She is in and out of jail for addiction issues and theft. Is there anything we can do to stop her from getting my sisters inheritance?

francesca a gentile
9 months ago

My sons dad was in hospice. My son is his only child. His father had no property but did have a bank account with $12,000.00 dollars. My son and I visited him and he told my son that everything was his just to cremate him and spread his ashes down the shore or keep them if he wanted. Well, his sisters helped with the funeral arrangements then caused a scene in funeral parlor, cops came, one brother grabbed me by the neck. My son and me left, he didn’t even get to attend the service. When he went to the bank the money was gone! He called them, no answer, he texted them, no reply. They didn’t even call him when his father passed nor did the place he was in. We found out thru my friend the next morning. We do know they did not have any notary involved. She did work for that bank and her husband works for another bank. My son can’t afford a lawyer and could really have used the money his dad left him. what can he do???

8 months ago

My fiance just passed on the 12 of this month he didn’t have anything to do with his family I got a paper sign from his brother saying I can have everything what do I need to do he has two vans that’s not worth anything please help

8 months ago
Reply to  Tammy L BEBOUT

It depends on where he lived, because the intestacy laws there are what would determine who gets what and how. The fact that you were engaged would only make a difference if the state honored common law marriage, assuming you lived together and met the defining terms of that. If he had a child or children then it would go to them first regardless of the engagement in most cases. The list generally goes: Spouse (married), child, parents, siblings and so on. I would check with the county he passed in as to what the laws are before anything else. Also, maybe try finding a lawyer that doesn’t charge for a consult and see what they say about it.

7 months ago

My grandfather on my moms side had two daughters who were my mom and my aunt, my mom had addiction problems and passed not to long ago but my aunt is still alive. My aunt had a son that passed in a car crash a few years ago, that was set up to inherit my grandfathers estate. (My grandfather was very old school and thought a male should inherit his whole estate)
But before my grandfather passed away, he changed his will so i, his granddaughter would inherit his estate instead of my aunt getting it instead. Now my aunt is wanting to take me to court over my grandfathers will.
She is saying she has first full right to it being shes the mother of the inherit.

My grandfathers estate includes two houses, a cottage, a couple acres of land and $150,000.

Can my aunt legally take me to court over my grandfathers will?

7 months ago
Reply to  Katis

A will can be contested if a beneficiary feels they have been improperly excluded. However, there is a time limit on contesting a will depending on the nature of the claim. While these time limits vary and are subjective, generally an Inheritance Act claim for maintenance must be made within 6 months from the grant of probate while a claim against an estate can be made within 12 years of the date of death. Contesting a will is expensive and unlikely to succeed. As long as your grandfather’s updated will was done so legally (dated, signed, and witnessed) it would be an extremely difficult case for your aunt to win. Please be aware that this is not legal advice and for more specific information pertaining to your case you should seek out the assistance of a licensed professional.

2 months ago
Reply to  Katis

If a brother takes control of assets and divide it in equal what do you do

Kristen hampton
6 months ago

My father passed away 5 years ago in South Carolina my brother has a different last name than him because my father was not married I don’t know if that has anything to do with it my mother was still married to him they left me in the dark about everything it has been five years since he diednow my brother took his truck but he had no will aren’t we supposed to split everything is there a way I can press charges about the truck I have the same last name as my father does that technically make me more of a direct heir than my brother

5 months ago

My brother died he lived with his cousin from hus dad side can I get his stuff

3 months ago

I have a question, years ago in West Virginia, the law was, that the home place,went to the youngest son. My sisters are trying to take my dads house that me and him and my grandfather built with our own hands.. dad left all of them land, if anyone could find out if the law is still the same about the youngest some inheriting the home place, please let me no, I have been searching on here but don’t no a lot about these laws. My uncle that lives in Virginia breath that was born and raised here in Lenore West Virginia told me that the law that the youngest son still inherites the home place. If any can help me I would be so grateful. You can even email me at… thank you in advance for you help.

3 months ago

My dad passed last week, I am the only legal or blood child, but my dad raised my 2 sisters but never adopted and not same last name… One of my sister’s has now moved into the estate trying to claim everything and got a bs restraining order against me to keep me away so she can take what she pleases. and has already been moving his things into storage to keep for herself.

Last edited 3 months ago by Melissa
Samantha G Fawaz
1 month ago

My dear friend passed away 2 days ago he also has a friend who found the will at his house she said I’m on it but she’ says she the exiquitor of the will I never seen it he has no family left his house is paid off How do I get a copy of the will?

Roderick Wright
1 month ago

Question, My uncle passed away in Michigan with no children and no will in 2002 and now currently has no living siblings. My mother was the executrix for his estate which did not go through probate. My mother passed in 2015 and I handled the estate per will which also did not go through probate. As I was going through the paperwork I came upon information that there were funds that my uncle has that were/are in several different bank accounts. Can I file a claim or are the children of my Uncle’s siblings supposed to be involved somehow?

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