When an individual passes on without a will, it is called dying intestate. It means the law comes into play when determining what happens to the estate left behind by the deceased. The estate’s distribution could also depend on the surviving family members and their relation to the decedent.
Still, proper distribution could vary based on intestacy laws. As an example, these provisions could enforce the following rules based on the situation:
- A surviving spouse without children: The spouse will receive the estate.
- Surviving children and no spouse: The children will receive the estate.
- Surviving spouse and children: The spouse receives $50,000 and 50% of the estate amount. The children will receive even parts of the remaining balance.
- No spouse and children: The decedent’s parents inherit the entire estate.
- No spouse, children and parents: The decedent’s siblings receive equal parts of the estate.
However, some situations are complex, especially when there are children from previous marriages. Sometimes, grandchildren could inherit if the decedent’s children are also deceased. They could receive the inheritance on behalf of their parents.
Additionally, intestacy laws could only apply to legal parent-child relationships, meaning foster children or stepchildren might not qualify to inherit unless the decedent legally adopted them.
What happens if the decedent has no surviving family members?
In some rare cases, the decedent might not have any surviving family members. If this happens, the estate goes to the state. However, this might only occur if no other relatives could legally inherit the estate.
Nevertheless, dying intestate could pose various issues affecting family members and causing disputes. Preparing a will and using other estate planning tools could address these concerns. Additionally, doing so could avoid the risks of conflicts within the surviving family and provide directions regarding the estate based on the decedent’s wishes.