By: Katherine On: December 6, 2016 In: Uncategorized Comments: 142
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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 had 2 Brothers and 1 sister… He lived in the family big property that had two houses with land around it… My dad past away in 1/2010 . His oldest brother locked the houses up after taking all he wanted, even what belonged to my dad… Then he sold everything land and all. Given my Dad’s to daughters (myself and my half older sister) nothing… Now he’s dead and someone else not family loves on the property and he still have two siblings left alive plus us (his children) how do we get our daddy’s part of everything taking??? This is what I need help in finding out

Dovhani Netshikweta
1 year ago

my father had two wives. he had one in the title deeds. he had kids tom both wives. How do we share his property?

1 year ago

QUESTION: My Husband and I have been married for 33 years. No Will as of yet, but, are in the process of getting one. However, the question is this- His parents both passed away within the last 5 months..They verbally left their home to him..(The home was not left to him in the WILL. The home wasn’t included in the original WILL. As his wife, I’m wondering if I’m entitled to the home?? Do I have claims to the house? Please advise if I have the right to claim the home, should anything was to ever happen to him?

Dennis Hickey
1 year ago

My family are saying that my dad did not have a will which is kind of strange because my dad always told me he had his will already made and that’s my son and me would be covered. My mother is still alive and I have nine brothers and sisters. I have lived in my parents home 4 over 12 years my son has lived in the home. For 8 years.
My mother wants to sell the home due to the property being deemed as a rental property from the city now and an inspection was made and she has been given 30 days to correct anything that needs to be done. So my sister just texted me saying that my mom is going to sell the house by the end of September which is funny because she has to have everything done by October 3rd or 4th I forget. Isn’t there any law that prohibits her from Jess kicking me and my son out.? And don’t I have the right to claim inheritance from my dad since his passing in April? My mother and the rest of my family has made my son and myself lifes a living hell sense my dad and my son’s grandfather died we were both the apple of his eye and he treated us very well and my mother and all my other brothers and sisters I believe and I basically know has always been jealous and did not like that my dad treated my son and me so well. and ever since he passed we can’t even get help with money to get toilet paper to clean yourself after using the bathroom or toothpaste or shampoo or soap. Etc etc I mean it has gotten really bad and right before my dad died something happened and I’ve had to deal with that since the spring time and hopefully it will be over by the 25th of this month and it has been causing me not to be able to get employed by any company. And they’re holding that against me that I I need to get off my feet but because of the lies that they pursued to make have affected me and not being able to obtain employment. There has to be some legal precedent about for how long that I and my son have lives here that she can’t just throw us out on the street or put us in some type of dirty drug-addicted Motel where people straight out of prison in jail go to. And there has to be some legal precedent that I should be able to claim some type of inheritance from my dad passing? Anything you guys can okay bus an information for me and my son would be greatly appreciated..
Love Brennan & Dennis Hickey.

Robert S. Murphy
1 year ago

My younger brother died a few weeks ago with no will. Me being his older brother am I entitled to anything? My mom is still alive but I have’nt spoken to her in years.

gary stolz
1 year ago

my step dad died ,we where never adopted but spent 51 years with the man called him dad my sister lived with him when he passed an we had his last name till i was 25 years old i grew up as a walker school records ssn drivers licence all under walker when he passed only one living relative his brother is alive he raised me an my sister an stayed in are lifes till his last mother an him devorsed in 92 he was still are father were 3 an 5 yr old an he was the only dad in are lifes do we have any rights to the probate.he didnt have a will but left the life insurance to my sister. but the brother swooped in an is remoldling the home b4 probate is even done this is not a usaull case i know its was the 60s when we became walkers in the late 80s when i couldnt find my birth certificate is when i had to get it from the hospital is when i had to go to stolz.we where in his life saw him days b4 he died

1 year ago

My mom passed back in Aug. No will I’m told, she was divorce with us three girls I just want to live in the house the house, property, vehicle was all paid off so what is my rights can I live inside the home? How do you find a will?

Liz Langenheim
10 months ago

I have a question pertaining to this information. My fiance’s grandfather has being in a nursing home and my fiance has been living in his house for years. I just recently moved in and I’ve been putting my own money into fixing the house up because everything was severely outdated. His grandfather passed and the house is left to my fiance’s aunt. I don’t know what her plans are for the house but we just found out that the grandfather took TWO mortgages out on the house. Do we have any legal rights being we’ve been the ones maintaining the property and the house? Can the bank take the house now that the grandfather passed? Or does the debt die with him? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Per Carlsson
10 months ago

My mother died just over two years ago now. She was a US citizen but was married to a Swede (my father – who passed away 17 years ago), and had been living in Sweden for many years. My mother had no will – Swedes often don’t have wills unless there are factors that might complicate the inheritance process, e.g. children by different spouses, great wealth etc. In my mom’s case things were very straightforward: she lived in a home and had three children (myself and my two brothers) by the same father, and since Sweden automatically recognises the children’s equal share in the estate, what little she had locally was quickly divided up between us. However, she also had an account in the US, but it’s proving rather daunting to get the bank to give us clear information regarding what we need to do to close her account and have the money transferred to us in Sweden. It’s not enough money to make it worth spending a lot of legal fees, but it’s a substantial enough for us to want to retrieve it, and in any case it doesn’t belong to the bank. Any advice on what we can/should do or who we can turn to, would be very much appreciated.

Hm Anderson
8 months ago

My daughter’s ex-husband unexpectantly died without a will. My ex son-in-law was just required by the court to make monthly payments for real estate they lived in while married which my daughter originally purchased but refinanced while married. This just started in November 2019. In the meantime her ex-husband’s mother is planning to make arrangements for funeral also for the sale of the house etc. How can the mother whom my former son in law had nothing to do with lay a legal claim on any of my ex son in laws assists? What is the best course of action, file a lien against the house to recoup money’s lost during the sale. Who can legally sell the house?