By: Katherine On: December 6, 2016 In: Uncategorized Comments: 136
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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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Melissa L Hernandez
Melissa L Hernandez
1 year ago

Hello, My name is Melissa and live in Tampa, Fl. I was married for 20 years and then got divorced. I always handled all the affairs and My ex-husband never believed in a Power of Attorney or a Will since we didn’t have much. He has passed away just recently and I have contacted everyone that I could to notify that he has passed. I was told that I would need his death certificate in order to be able to handle other situations, but that was not true due to us being divorced. The assests that he has is not much including his bank account. In the divorce papers I put that I would give him the house, but he had to refinace or if he couldn’t we would sell it or shortsell it. The title of this house is under both of our names, but the loan is only under my name. We never had children, We were in the middle of trying to refinance the house in only his name due to his wishes. He has a child from a previous relationship and she wants the house. She has no residents, no job or anything. How does that work out? Also, there are cars as well, but they do not run and basically junk. I have the titles of the cars,but am not sure if I can sell or junk them. The car that I gave him as a gift after the divorce was towed when he had a cardiac arrest and was pounded and they stated that due to the registration was only in his name and it didn’t matter that the insurance was in both our names that I couldn’t take it out the pound or his next if kin. I’m in a delema and not sure what to do.

mary
mary
1 year ago

hello my brother passed away and did not leave will he is single and left me a share of a property but my sisterinlaw does not want to pay me my share wants it free and also threat not to close the joint account if i dont give house free

Lisa TK
Lisa TK
1 year ago

Hi,
My father passed away. He did not have a will He has 401K and savings, He remarried. My question is who inherit his estate and money. My brother and I are his son from the first wife. We live in Pennsylvania.

Marta
Marta
1 year ago

Hello,
I live in Europe. My recently deceased father moved to California, USA, remarried a women who already had one child from previous relationship. My father had with her two children. It is very difficult to communicate with her. Looks that he had not left a will. I am not even sure that I exist in any place in USA as his child. They both had a house that is worth two million dollars. She keeps promising me that next year she will sell the house and give me some money. I don’t trust her. Maybe she is busy, but she stopped answering my calls. Please advise where I can find out if I exists in USA as his child? Is there any time limit to make register myself somewhere (otherwise i could loos right to any of his assets), and what should i do now. It needs to be noted that all the children, including me are adults. Unfortunately, my financial situation does not allow me to hire a lawyer. Please advise. Thank you very much.

Refilwe
Refilwe
1 year ago

Good day my sister passed away 4 years ago and we didn’t know that she was married after the funeral the husband took the child and he doesn’t want us to have a relationship with my sister’s child so want to know is can we take him to court so that the court can help us have access to the child

Elaine
Elaine
1 year ago

My brother passed away March 6, 2019. My brother did not have a will. He has 2 children. They have not been in touch with each other for over 30 years. So when he passed away. His children would not come to the funeral or help with the funeral expenses. I had to pay for the funeral. He had a very small amount of money in the bank. I have taken 2 death certificates to the bank. The bank still will not let me get the money. What do I need to do.? It has been over 90 days. I could understand if this was a large amount of money. The amount in the account would not buy a blank for the funeral.

Jessica Shine
Jessica Shine
1 year ago

My father was married to his 1st wife, she died. Come to find out because of California state law my father was set to receive her retirement money. Sadly, after he signed the paperwork for the money, 6 weeks later he passed. I was wondering if his other 3 children is entitled to some of that money. Even though she was not are mother?

Ahmad Hammad
Ahmad Hammad
1 year ago

Hello,
my friend’s father died and he owns a house and a car in Pennsylvania united states , he died in Saudi Arabia while with his 2nd wife they have together 5 children and he has an ex-wife with 7 children , unfortunately he has no will , how is this property distributed to his inheritors noting that the house is jointly own by him and his second wife.
thanks for your help

Elisa Alcaraz
Elisa Alcaraz
1 year ago

Question I’m 40 Mom passed away she was married to my dad which he up and left when I was a toddler remarried in Mexico. Now they live in Ca. They have houses and own lots of property here and in Tj. He never paid child support. My Mom divorced him when I was 17. I am his first born child. Being the fact he married her when he was still married to my Mom. How would that work. He has 4 grown kids with her . Is there marriage legal. Well if there’s common law here it would.

Wanda Self
Wanda Self
1 year ago

Please help? My father and my stepmother own home in Florida, I live in Oklahoma. He passed away a few years ago and she still lives in the home. They didn’t have any kids TOGETHER. My question question is what happens to the house etc after she passes away? I barely knew my real father, just talked to him a few times throughout the years. How do I find out if there was or wasn’t a will and if not does his biological children have legal claim to property? Since my father died my stepmother has told me that she doesn’t want any more contact with me.

Thanks for your help