What happens if your loved one dies without a will

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | Blog, Probate And Estate Administration |

Losing a loved one is an emotionally taxing ordeal, and it becomes increasingly complex if they die without a will. Unfortunately, it is common for people to not have a will when they pass away, as CNBC reported that over 66% of Americans do not have a will. If someone dies without a will in Pennsylvania, the state’s intestate succession laws determine how to distribute the deceased person’s assets.

This condition, known as dying “intestate,” activates a set of legal guidelines that outline who will inherit the estate. You need to understand these guidelines because they directly affect how the state will allocate your loved one’s assets.

Spouses and children take priority

In Pennsylvania, the surviving spouse of your loved one usually receives the most substantial part of the estate. The exact distribution depends on whether your loved one had children, and if those children are also the children of the surviving spouse. Without children, the spouse might inherit everything. With shared children, the spouse still secures the majority, but the children inherit a portion as well.

When there is no spouse

If no spouse survives, the estate typically passes to the children. Without children, the estate might go to the deceased’s parents or siblings. State laws create a hierarchy of relatives who stand to inherit in such cases.

The role of the probate court

The probate court oversees the estate distribution and appoints an administrator, who usually is a family member, to manage the distribution process. This individual settles debts and allocates the remaining assets according to intestate laws.

If your loved one dies without a will in Pennsylvania, the intestate succession laws step in to dictate the estate’s division. While dealing with such matters can be complicated, grasping the intestate succession principles can help you manage this challenging period more effectively.