What happens to your property when you die without a last will?

| May 26, 2021 | Estate And Probate Law |

Most people put off writing a will on the assumption that they will have a chance to make these important decisions in the future. While that may be true in many cases, there is never a guarantee. 

Even those who are quite healthy and come from families with notable longevity can wind up dying in a sudden car accident or after contracting an infectious disease. When someone dies early and unexpectedly, their family likely needs the protection of an estate plan even more than they would if that individual passed away during their golden years. 

What happens to your property when you die without a last will?

The Pennsylvania courts will assign your property to your family members. Intestate succession is the legal term for passing property from one deceased person to their surviving family members if they don’t have a will. Every state has its own laws for intestate estates. In Pennsylvania, the deceased individual’s spouse has the strongest rights of inheritance, followed by the decedent’s children.

If there are no children in the family, then the spouse receives everything. If there’s no spouse, then the children can inherit it all. The ties between surviving spouse and children will determine who gets what when both spouse and children survive. Only in cases where neither a surviving spouse nor a surviving child exists will parents, siblings and other more distant family members have the statutory right to inherit from an estate without a last will. 

The more unique your desires for your legacy and the more complicated your family relationships are, the more important it is to plan ahead of time to leave a legacy for the people you love the most.