Laws of Intestacy

If you die without a Will you are said to die “intestate.”  In that case, the laws of intestacy apply to distribute your assets as follows:

First, if you are married when you die your surviving spouse will receive:

  1. the entire estate if (a) you leave no children, or (b) you leave only children who are also children of your surviving spouse; or
  2. one-half the estate if (a) you leave any children who are not children of your surviving spouse, or (b) you leave only children who are children of your surviving spouse, but your surviving spouse also has children who are not your children (e.g., children with a prior spouse).

If your surviving spouse is only entitled to one-half of your estate, then your children will take the other half.  If you leave no spouse, then all of your assets will pass to your children.

If you leave no spouse or children, then the inquiry proceeds further through your family tree until a survivor is found.  That search goes in the following general order:

a. your parents; and

b. your siblings and any children of a deceased sibling.

Then the estate is divided one-half for your father’s side and one-half for your mother’s side of the family in the following order:

c. your grandparents;

d. your aunts and uncles; and

e. your cousins.

Of course, there are exceptions, such as homestead, that an estate planning and probate lawyer can further explain.

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