If you die without leaving a will behind, this is referred to as passing away intestate. In these circumstances, the intestacy laws in your state will specify how your assets and property will be distributed. State laws specifically govern assets that are within state lines, however. If you own real estate in a different location, for example, the laws of that state will apply to those assets.
Your property will be distributed to your heirs according to the laws of intestate succession. These laws apply differently to people who were married, single, or had children. Your surviving heirs might be your parents, surviving spouse, siblings, or even distant relatives. If the state is unable to locate any relatives, however, the entire estate will go directly to the state.
If You Are Married
When you pass away, your estate will either go to your surviving spouse or split between them and your other beneficiaries. This will be determined by how your assets are owned at the time of your passing. If you have children with your current spouse, the whole estate will generally go to your surviving spouse. If you have surviving children from another partner, however, your estate will be split up. Your current spouse may receive up to one-half of your estate, and the rest will be distributed amongst your surviving children.
If You Are Single
If you are single when you pass and are without children, your estate will be passed onto both of your parents if they are living. If only one parent is alive at the time, the estate will be distributed between him or her and your siblings. Conversely, if both of your parents have passed, then your estate will be divided equally amongst your siblings. If you have no immediate family, your estate will be split in half and given to both your mother and your father’s side of the family.
If you have children and are single at the time of your death, the whole estate will usually be distributed equally between your children. In some cases, your grandchildren may receive a portion of the estate as well.
If You Are an Unmarried Couple
If you pass away without a will and are living with a partner at the time, this can be a devastating situation. Intestacy laws only recognize relatives, so unmarried partners have no rights to the estate of their partners. Unless a will is left that appoints their partner as a beneficiary, the estate will be divided amongst relatives according to the intestacy laws in their state.
It’s always a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer, like a probate lawyer in Cherry Hill, NJ, about your last wishes sooner rather than later. They can help make sure that your assets get distributed accordingly.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into what happens if you die without a will.