How the Law Works If You Die Without Securing a Will

Legal Tips and Resources

If you don’t secure a will before you pass away, your death is considered “intestate.” The state where you lived at the time of your death will then take over your estate and determine how to distribute your property. In most cases, your property will be distributed to your surviving family members, but if the state can’t locate anyone, it becomes the property of the state itself. The following are some scenarios that could take place depending on your relationships.

Single Individuals

If you don’t have a legal spouse or children, your property will generally go to your parents if they are still alive. If only one parent is alive, that parent will receive equal portions of your estate with your siblings and half-siblings. If your parents are divorced, it will be divided among them.

If your parents have already passed away, your estate will be equally divided among siblings and half-siblings. The state will continue working down the line, and if you have no surviving siblings, your nieces and nephews would be given equal portions of your estate.

If all of the aforementioned sources have been exhausted, your estate would be equally split between your mother’s side of the family and your father’s side.

Single Individuals With Children

If you are single with children when you die, your estate will be equally divided among them. If you only have one child, the entire estate will go to him or her. If your child happened to die before you did, and he or she had children, your grandchildren would be given equal portions of the estate.

Married Individuals

Assuming your property is considered community or marital property, it will all go to your surviving spouse upon your death. If you and your spouse have separate property, the spouse will typically receive the joint property, and your separate property would be split between your spouse, your parents and your siblings.

If you and your current spouse have children together, the spouse will receive your entire estate. If you have children from a previous spouse, your current spouse will get up to half of your property and your children will be given equal parts of the other half.

Unmarried Couples and Domestic Partnerships

If you are living with someone but are not legally married, your surviving partner could find him or herself in a tough situation. In some states, domestic partnerships are not recognized, so your partner would be completely left out of the equation. If you are unmarried and living together, your partner would not receive anything in that situation, either.

Contacting an Attorney

You deserve to have your property distributed as you would like it to be. Whether you are the surviving loved one of someone who died without a will, or you wish to write a will, contact an estate lawyer today.