Many people die without ever having taken the time to write a will. What happens in that situation? The answer is set by state legislation. In Pennsylvania your assets are distributed pursuant to the Intestate Succession Act. Here is how that goes:
If your spouse survives you their share of your estate depends upon whether you had surviving issue or parents. If you had no surviving issue or parents then your spouse inherits everything. If you had no surviving issue but had surviving parents then your spouse gets the first $30,000 of your estate and one-half of the excess; with your surviving parents getting the remainder.
If you have surviving issue, all of whom are also issue of your spouse then your spouse gets the first $30,000 plus one-half of the excess with the issue sharing the rest.
If you have surviving issue, one or more of which is not the issue of your spouse then your spouse gets one-half of the estate and the rest is split evenly among the issue.
If you die without a spouse then your estate goes to your issue. If you have no spouse and no issue then your estate goes to your parents. If you have no spouse, no issue, and no parents then your estate goes to issue of each of your parents issue.
Next, if you die without a spouse, without issue, without parents, and without issue of parents then one-half of your estate goes to your paternal grandparent(s), or if both dead, to their children or children of the deceased children and the other half goes in the same manner, to your maternal grandparent(s) or, if deceased, their children. If their are no heirs in either the paternal or maternal grandparents linage then their half will go to the other line of heirs. If no grandparent survives you then your estate goes to your uncles, and aunts. If you have predeceased uncles and aunts their share will be divided among their children and grandchildren. And finally, if no one takes pursuant to the above, your estate goes to the commonwealth.
Before you allow this to take its course, think it over. Do you really want your surviving spouse to split your estate with your children? Do you really want to treat your children equally? Proper planning and proper documents are a must in most situations.
I would be happy to discuss your wishes with you, call me.
By: Bob Cooper, Esq