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Tips for When a Family Member Dies without a Will

When a family member dies without a will, it is important to apply the intestacy laws. The intestacy law is used as a guideline of property distribution of the deceased. Therefore when someone dies when he/she had not prepared a will of how the property will be divided into his/her closest people, then that person is said to die intestate. Intestate law lists the people who are entitled to property on inheritance of a deceased in case where a will was not drafted by the deceased. The relationship between the deceased and the people to inherit the deceased’s property is defined by the intestate law. During the division of the property, two tools are used to divide the property which includes per stripe and per capita. The only time the per capita and the per stripe tools are used is when the property is divided to many people who are entitled to inheritance. The following are some of the hierarchy outlined by intestate law.

On top of the hierarchy is the spouse who is entitled to inherit an estate that is left behind by the deceased. A spouse can get a piece of estate or inherit the whole estate depending on whether the deceased left behind children. In the case where no child was left behind, the spouse is entitled to inherit the whole estate without caring if there are other relatives left behind. The spouse is only entitled to the inheritance of the deceased if he/she was legally married to the deceased. Read more about common marriage here.

The second on the intestate hierarchy are children of the deceased. The piece of an estate left behind is usually divided equally among the existing children of the deceased if there is no spouse left behind. In case there is a spouse, the rules changes. Depending on the size of the estate, a spouse is given a certain percentage of the estate and the remaining percentage distributed equally to all the children. The adopted children are also given equal share because they are considered as the biological children of the deceased. Intestate clearly states that children will not inherit the debt left behind by their parent. It is the responsibility of the probate court to select the guardian who will take care of the children of the deceased.

Thirdly, on the intestate hierarchy are parents and siblings of the deceased. In case there is no recognized spouse, children or grandchildren, parents, and sibling are considered to be suitable property inheritors. On this level of the hierarchy, parents are given the first priority and if the parents are not around, siblings are then picked to be inheritors.

The third on the intestate hierarchy are distant relatives and this happens only if the deceased do not have an existing spouse, children, siblings or any descendant. Distant relatives include cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles who may share the property equally among themselves.