When someone dies, and an estate is required, there are two distinct possibilities for what dictates the disposition of assets in the estate. If the decedent has a valid will, that will controls how the estate is handled. However, if someone dies without a will, there are a default set of rules that control how an estate is handled. This process is called Intestacy.

Without a will, assets go to what the State of Pennsylvania assumes are the people you would be likely to leave your estate to. It is very unlikely that the decedent’s assets will pass to the State of Pennsylvania.

If the decedent dies with a spouse, the following divisions of assets occur in intestacy:

  • No Children or Parents Survive. All assets pass to the surviving spouse.
  • Children Survive.The surviving spouse receives the first $30,000, plus one-half (1/2) of the balance, with the rest being evenly divided amongst the children. If some of the surviving children are not the spouse’s issue, then the surviving spouse only receives one-half (1/2) of the estate.
  • One or Both Parents Survive.The surviving spouse receives the first $30,000, plus one-half (1/2) of the balance, with the rest being evenly amongst the surviving parents.

If the decedent dies without a spouse, then the decedent’s estate assets pass as follows:

(1)  Issue. Children, grandchildren, etc.

(2)  Parents. If no issue survives the decedent, then to the parents or parent of the decedent.

(3)  Brothers, sisters, or their issue. If no parent survives the decedent, then to the issue of each of the decedent’s parents.

(4)  Grandparents. If no issue of either of the decedent’s parents but at least one grandparent survives the decedent, then half to the paternal grandparents and a half to the maternal grandparents, and their children.

(5)  Uncles, aunts and their children, and grandchildren. If no grandparent survives the decedent, then to the uncles and aunts and the children and grandchildren.

(6)  Commonwealth. In default of all persons hereinbefore described, then to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In an intestate estate, it is important to make certain that a Personal Representative is properly appointed to handle the probate process. Furthermore, all assets have to be properly researched, valued, and accounted for. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you in making sure an intestate estate is done in accordance with Pennsylvania law with minimal headaches.

Furthermore, intestate succession is never certain until a party dies. If the uncertainty of intestacy is not appealing, then you should make every effort to have a will prepared that does reflect your testamentary wishes.

If you need help administering an intestate estate or you wish to draft a will to avoid intestacy, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444, or to see what others have said about us, please read our client testimonials.

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