Have you ever wondered what would happen if you died without a will? The legal term for this is “intestacy,” and it can cause a great deal of confusion and heartache for your family following your death.
Something has to happen to your property and assets after you die. If you have a will, the executor that you name distributes your property among your designated heirs. On the other hand, if you die intestate, the state acts as your executor and distributes your property.
Without a will, there is no way to know your wishes for your estate. For that reason, the state has a set of rules in place that governs the distribution of your property if you die intestate. Collectively, these are the rules of intestate succession.
Intestate succession deals with your net estate, i.e., whatever remains after the state pays any outstanding administrative expenses, taxes, debts and other obligations. Once these expenses are out of the way, the rules of intestate succession determine the distribution of your net estate.
According to the rules of intestate succession, your closest surviving relatives receive your net estate. If you have both a surviving spouse and descendents, the state will divide your net estate among them. Your spouse receives most or all of your net estate if you have no descendents. According to the right of representation, your descendents take the entire net estate if you have no surviving spouse.
After spouses and descendents, your next closest relatives are your parents according to intestate succession. If only one of your parents is still living, he or she inherits your entire net estate if you die intestate and have no surviving spouse or descendents. However, if both parents are still alive, each will receive an equal share of your net estate. If your parents predecease you and you die intestate, your siblings stand to inherit your net estate.
Intestate succession is generic and arbitrary from necessity. It does not take any special circumstances into consideration.