What Happens to Your Assets When You Die Without a Will?

January 3, 2019

West Chester Wills and Estates Lawyers discuss what happens when you die without a will. Many of us think that creating a will is something that we do when we are older. Others may believe they have nothing substantial to leave behind, therefore a will is pointless. However, these misconceptions can lead to many unfortunate consequences, including the fact that the laws of the state where the deceased resides will determine what happens to assets.

The types of assets the state will distribute will include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Securities
  • Real estate
  • Life insurance proceeds

Pennsylvania Intestate Succession Laws

When a person dies without a will, it means that they have died intestate. When this happens, the intestacy laws of the state where the deceased lived will determine how their property is distributed. Any land or property owned in another state will be distributed according to that state’s intestate laws. Pennsylvania intestate laws are slightly complicated and depend on who survives the deceased.

For example, in many states, the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate if the other spouse passes away. However, this is not the case in Pennsylvania and the only time a spouse will inherit the entire estate is when there are no surviving children or parents of the deceased surviving.

The following is a general breakdown of what a spouse may be entitled to if the survivors are:

  • Biological Children: Spouse inherits the first $30,000 plus half of what remains. Children inherit the rest.
  • Deceased’s Surviving Parents: Spouse inherits the first $30,000 plus half of what remains. Parents inherit the remaining half.

Should there be no remaining, the property will first be given to the children, then to the surviving parents of the deceased. The siblings of the deceased would be last on the list to inherit the estate. Given the above, leaving one’s estate in the hands of intestate law could cause potential problems. This may be especially true if the spouse who dies was the breadwinner of the family. Remaining spouses who are forced to share assets with parents and children may be facing financial hardship. Residents of Pennsylvania who do not have a will should contact a West Chester wills and estates lawyer to discuss how this may affect their family’s future.

Does Everyone Need a Will?

Regardless of the amount of money or property an individual has when they die, someone will need to take it over. While a middle-aged sibling may not necessarily need that old car that runs great, perhaps a nephew or niece does. Creating a will can help avoid conflict and ensure that assets are distributed thoughtfully and fairly.

A will is a document that should be changed and updated through an individual’s lifetime. Once a person turns 18, parents cannot dictate what will become of their assets. In other words, wills do not have to wait until marriage, children, illness, or retirement.

West Chester Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Assist Clients with Will and Estate Matters

If you have questions about Pennsylvania intestate laws or would like assistance creating a will for your family, speak to an experienced West Chester wills and estates lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call 610-565-3701 today or contact us online to schedule a free confidential consultation. With offices in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area, including those in Delaware CountyChester County, and Montgomery County.