For individuals who have not signed a valid
will during their lifetime, at death they have died intestate. Intestacy is a legal term for individuals who
die without wills. The property titled
in the deceased person’s name passes according to the laws of the deceased's state of residence at the time of his or her death.
Each state, including Indiana, has unique laws of
intestate distribution. Although some
differences exist among the many states, generally the children of an unmarried
person will inherit their parent’s property in equal shares. If an unmarried person dies without a will
and without children, intestacy laws often pass the deceased’s property to his
or her parents.
In the case of married individuals, only a
portion of the property owned by the deceased will pass to the surviving
spouse, and the remaining portion will pass to the deceased’s children. If the deceased has no children, this remaining
portion will pass to the parents of the deceased.
Finally, in the case where the deceased has no surviving
spouse, no children and no grandchildren, or surviving parents,
the deceased’s property will pass to his or her brothers and sisters. And if there are no brothers
and sisters of the deceased, the property passes to more distant relatives who
are related by blood (also known as consanguinity). The precise division of property among these
more distant relatives is governed by technical rules using the principles of “per
capita” or “per stirpes” distribution.
Many people have heard or believe that the state will inherit
all of their property if they die without a will. However, this is generally not true because
in most cases the deceased has some surviving blood relatives. But, in the rare case where there are no
surviving blood relatives, the property will go to the state. This is known as property escheating to the
Although the will written by your state legislature in the form
of its intestacy laws provides a mechanism to distribute your property, it is nevertheless
wise to prepare your will. Doing so allows
you to choose the relatives, friends, or charities you wish to receive your
assets. Our law firm is qualified and
experienced to advise and assist you in the drafting of your will and related
estate planning documents. Wisely
developed estate plans include powers of attorney, appointments of health care
representative, and living wills.