What Happens to an Estate If There is No Will or Trust?

Many people think that estate and will planning is only for the elite. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you have an asset (can be anything from a bike to a private airplane), you need to create a will, period! Though more people now than ever realize the importance of creating a will, many people still downplay the significance of writing a will. Ever wondered what happens to an estate of a person who passes away without making a will? We try to answer this question in this blog.

A person who dies without a will is said to have died intestate, meaning that the local intestacy laws (of the state) will decide how their property such as bank accounts, real estate, securities, and other assets will be divided. Real estate acquired in a different state than where the deceased person resided will be handled according to the intestacy laws of the state where it is located.

The laws of intestacy succession will vary depending on whether the person was single or married or had kids. In most cases, the estate of a person who died without making a will is divided between their heirs, which can be their surviving spouse, uncle, aunt, parents, nieces, nephews, and distant relatives. If, however, no relatives come forward to claim their share in the property, the entire estate goes to the state.

What Happens If a Single Person Dies Without a Will?

If a person dies single and childless, their surviving parents will get the estate. In case there are no surviving parents, the property will be divided among siblings (half siblings included) in equal parts. If one parent is dead, the property will be divided between siblings and the surviving parent. If a single person dies without creating a will and does not have any surviving parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings, the property will be divided equally among relatives on the father’s and mother’s side.

If a person dies single, but has children, the property will be divided among them in equal parts. The share of dead children (if any) will be passed on to their kids (the property owner’s grandchildren).

What Happens If a Married Person Dies Without a Will?

If a married person dies without a will, assets will be divided depending on how they were owned. While community property will go entirely to the spouse, separate property will be divided among the spouse, siblings, and parents. If the person was married multiple times, the entire property will pass on to the current spouse (if they have kids from the person). If, however, the property owner does not have kids from the current spouse, the property will be divided equally among them and the kids from another spouse.

What Happens If a Person in a Domestic Partnership Dies Without a Will? 

Many states do not recognize domestic partnerships. If a person in a domestic partnership dies without a will, the state will decide how the property will be divided.

What Happens If a Person in a Live-in Relationship Dies Without a Will?

If a person living with a partner without marrying them dies, the surviving partner won’t inherit the property as intestacy laws only recognize relatives.

There is more to inheritance laws than meets the eye. At Johnston & Associates Law, we are committed to helping our clients navigate the complex legal framework. We are one of the most sought-after law firms in Santa Rosa. No matter how complex your case, our legal experts will come up with the right legal strategy for you. To talk to an estate planning attorney in Sonoma County, call us at 707-545-6542.