What Is Intestate Succession?

Officer Explaining about intestate succession

Intestate succession describes the process of how a deceased person’s property is distributed when they haven’t left a will. When someone leaves a will, their assets are distributed according to its terms. But if someone dies without writing a will, their property must be distributed according to the laws of their state.

If you want your property to go to a particular person or organization when you die, you need to make sure it’s clearly stated in your will. If there is no will or other legal documents that spell out who gets what, the property will be distributed according to state law. This is called intestate succession.

Intestate succession law varies significantly from state to state, so it’s important to know what the rules are where you live.

How Intestate Succession Works?

For example, if you die without a will and have minor children, they will typically receive their share of the inheritance through a court-appointed guardian ad litem — an adult who looks after their interests until they reach majority (age 18 in most states).

If there is no surviving spouse or child, the decedent’s siblings may receive the inheritance. If there are no surviving siblings or descendants of deceased siblings (nieces and nephews), the inheritance passes to grandparents and their descendants (aunts and uncles).

If you have a mixed family or other unique circumstances, your Estate Plan is even more critical. Adopted children, stepchildren, or an heir who committed a heinous crime or was legally responsible for your death might change the sequence and necessitate extraordinary conditions.

Finally, keep in mind that not all assets are subject to intestate succession regulations. Assets in a trust, payment on death (or TOD) accounts, and insurance with identified direct beneficiaries may be able to sidestep state laws and escape probate and/or the intestate procedure.

Intestacy Laws

In general, intestate succession laws will determine who inherits your assets when you die without a will. In most cases, this means that your spouse and children inherit most or all of your assets. If you do not have a spouse or children, your parents will likely inherit everything you own. If you have no living parents or other close relatives, then the state may take control of your assets. If none of these situations apply — if you have no living relatives and no one else has made a claim on your estate — then it is possible that your estate may escheat to the state (that is, become property of the state).

Examples Of Intestate Succession

When a person dies without a will, his or her estate is passed onto heirs according to a state law called intestate succession. Each state has its own intestacy laws that specify who inherits the property of people who die without will.

Intestate succession is generally limited to spouses and blood relatives, but if none exist, the state takes ownership of the deceased’s property. 

The Following are Examples of Intestate Succession:

If you die and leave no surviving spouse, no children or parents, then your siblings inherit everything. If you have one sibling but that sibling has died, leaving children, then those children divide your property equally. If you have more than one sibling and they are living, then they share everything equally.

If you die and leave no surviving spouse, but you have children (from this marriage or another), then those children share everything equally.

If you die and leave no surviving spouse or children, but you have a surviving parent or parents, then those parents share everything equally.

If you die and leave no surviving spouse or children or parents, but you have siblings (from this marriage/relationship or another), then your siblings share everything equally.

Intestate laws in California:

 According to California intestate succession rules, the following would not be passed through as long as suitable beneficiaries were chosen.

  • Assets placed in Living Trust
  • The proceeds of life insurance
  •  401(k), IRA, or other retirement accounts
  • Any accounts that are receivable on death and/or transferable on death (TOD).
  • Any joint tenancy property you have as well as any communal property with a right of survivorship.
  • Any vehicle that has a TOD registration.

Intestate laws in Texas:

 A man’s wife would receive everything except the following under Texas intestate law:

  • Property transferred into his Living Trust
  • The proceeds from his life insurance
  • His 401(k), IRA, or other retirement accounts
  • Any bank accounts that are payable on death
  • The property he shared in joint tenancy with his wife

Important Terms that you need to remember related to Intestate Laws

Intestate – When you die without a Will, you are said to have died intestate. If, on the other hand, you die with a valid Will, you have died testate.

Domicile – Your permanent and legal residence.

Descent – The process through which real property is dispersed; property flows via descent.

Distribution – Refers to how your personal property will be distributed after your death.

Distributee – The person who receives property.

Descendants – Are your ancestors: father, kid, and grandchild.

Next of Kin – Living persons who have the same degree of blood kinship.

Decedent – A person who has died.

Consanguinity – Is the blood kinship of two persons.

Lineal Consanguinity – Is a blood tie that runs in a straight line from one another.

Ascending Line – Consists of a daughter, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Descending Line – Son, grandson, and great-grandson.

Collateral Consanguinity – A blood link between ancestors who do not descend from each other: Aunt, niece against mother, daughter

Escheat – When a decedent’s property is returned to the state because he or she has no heirs.

Dower – A provision in a law that allows widows to inherit their husband’s property after his deathC

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Prioritizing your Estate Planning early is the greatest approach to avoid dying intestate and adding to your family’s stress. The easiest method to do this is to have either (or both) a Will or a Trust. Starting with a Will is less difficult than you believe and we at Clocr can help you with your will.