A person who has passed away without a will has died “intestate.” All of the assets will be dispensed according to the laws where the person resided, except for real estate owned in another state. For example, if the decedent lived in Texas, but owned real estate in Arkansas, the intestacy laws of Arkansas would determine how the real property would be distributed. The distribution of assets may also be affected by the deceased person’s relationship status and whether or not they had children.
The intestacy laws are pretty straightforward when it comes to single, childless people. The parents receive the entire estate if they are still living. If only one parent is living, they will receive half, and the other half will be divided among the siblings. If not parents survive the decedent, then the siblings will split the estate evenly. Finally, if there are no living parents or siblings, the assets are divided equally between the closest living relatives, with one half going to the ones on the mother’s side and one half going to the relatives on the father’s side.
The dispensation of the estate can change based on the ownership of the assets. Community property is passed to the spouse. Separate property may be split between the spouse, children and parents of the deceased. If the person had children with the current spouse only, the spouse would retain ownership of all assets. If the deceased were married but had children in a prior marriage, the current spouse would inherit up to one half, and the children from the previous marriage would receive the remainder.
The outcome of an intestate death could be determined based upon the deceased person’s state of residence. If the state recognizes domestic partnerships, then the partner is treated as a spouse. The assets may then go to the partner, depending on how they were owned. If you are in a domestic partnership, it is advisable to check on the laws in your state to see how to protect your partner in the event of your death.
To be sure that your estate is left to the people that you intend to receive it, take the necessary steps to make sure you don’t die intestate. Contact an experienced, licensed estate attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ in your state of residence to find out how to protect your family in the event of your death.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and what happens when you die without a will.