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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Janice
Janice
1 year ago

My dad died December 31,2018 ,and I’m his only child. Unfortunately his wife had him cremated the next day without informing me of his death. She also took all his personal belongings and locked up his house so I wouldn’t be able to stay in the house for the memorial. Does she have the right to do that to me?

Susan
Susan
1 year ago

Hello – my mother passed away without a will. She has owned a house with her sister since the early 80’s she was taken off of the title when they refinanced a few years ago because of a defaulted student loan she cosigned on. My loan… however they never spoke to me about any of this and I don’t quite understand why they would do something like this unless my aunt talked her into this somehow. I am in the process of acquiring all of the title documents other than that I have no idea how to proceed. I am currently signing legal documents stating her estate is under 150,000$ I am unclear if this included property or not –

She lived-in California and I live in Portland Or.

Shawn
Shawn
1 year ago

My husband’s mother passed away. The house and property she had first belonged to her mother. We are being told that his grandmother had something written up saying if anything happened to her the house and property were to go to my husband’s mother and that his mother had everything put into her name. How do we go about finding out if the house and property is truly in his mothers name or not?
Also prior to her passing the city/state told her some things that had to be fixed in the house and on the property or they were going to condemn it and tear it down. Of course she passed away before having the chance to do any of it. Now everything is left up to my husband and he wants to fix the house up so we can live in it with our daughter. The city is basically telling him they have to be the ones to give him time and permission to do it and if not they will tear him t down and put a lean on it. Can they do this? What are his rights? Do they have to give him a chance to either fix it up or tear it down himself?
This is in Texas

Sheikh Nadia
Sheikh Nadia
1 year ago

Wow, amazing post great idea about shares by you.

Mark Pears
Mark Pears
1 year ago

My wife is truly upset Her uncle has taken her inheritance because he said he was her Half brother and he deserved it the only surviving daughter was told to go away and leave him alone.

daniel padilla
daniel padilla
1 year ago

what if my boyfriend passed away we were together for almost 2 years and he didnt leave a will and had no kids, he didnt have a good relationship with his family, i was the only person he could count on, but we were just boyfriends and i live in San Francisco California, i have his car and i think there is some money someone could get back from the car, how could i or someone get that money if he never had had a will or anything?

Kristian
Kristian
1 year ago

If my grandmas husband passed and they own property, that he took a bank loan out on with his son, does the property still belong to my grandma even though he didn’t have a will? They have 3 children over 35 years old. Will a lady bird deed help her leave it to someone else?

Julieayn M
Julieayn M
1 year ago

I have a home /property question. My grandmother passed about 5 years ago and left her home to her children and they are not interested in buying or paying late property taxes but I being her grandaughter am, my family has agreed to signing a letter of change of ownership in which all her children have signed , but the toatl amout is over $6000.00 and I dont have the total amount and the home is “power to sell ” status and will be up for auction in just 5 days what can I do about this I really need help!

Vinni
Vinni
1 year ago

My father & his wife have been estranged for several years & live in different states. He in California where they were married & she moved away. Apparantly they agreed to remain married so she could recieve SS benefits. Im aware that this isnt necessary because they were married for more than 10 yrs. When i asked about it my father told me that the arrangement was so she didnt take the house, which was my fathers prior to the marriage. He says that the marriage is so she gets his retirement n my sibling & i get the estate (house, cars, bank acct). Also, my dads wife never worked during the marriage. Ive also been told that my sibling & i couldnt receive his retirement because were adults. Now i was under the impression that was a decision for my father, right? He worked the same job since before i was born, his wife is his forth, they werent married until there 60s & although married for over 10 years shes been gone for about 3-4 of those. I feel that shes not really entitled to all of his retirement & have told my father that i want anything he may leave me put in trust for my niece. Im not sure but feel his wife has sort of conned him. Hopefully im wrong but can you tell me if my father is able to designate his adult children as beneficiaries whether hes married or not?
Also, i know if they divorced shed be entitled to part of the house but considering it was his prior i believe her share is not 50%, correct?
And then if he passed she could contest his will if he leaves my sibling & i the estate & have a good chance to void our inheritance because she is his closest relative right?
I know this is alot of confusion already & when i talk to my other family they have said that my dad couldnt designate who he wanted for his retirement. Im very confused but they insist their right. If thats the law im fine with it, but if my dad is ill informed i want him to know. I guess i also would like to know if my dad is just keeping that from us.
One last question please. Right now my dads will says his estate goes to my sibling for him to decide. I used to be pretty well off so i was ok with his decision. But in recent years ive had lots of medical bills, breakup, etc & my finances are in horrible shape. what happens when a will is contested? Currently my sibling is very critical of me & constantly tells me i wont get anything because of my mismanagement of finances. Its a mess, but i guess before i speak to my dad again id like to be informed.
Thank you so much.

Debbie M
Debbie M
1 year ago

Hello, My father just passed away on March 1 2019. He did not have a will and there is only myself and my brother. I currently live in the home. Can I just make the mortgage payments as I plan on staying in the home. My brother and I are in agreement with everything. There is no disputes between us. I am wondering if I have to go to probate? lawyer? My father was widowed at the time of his passing.