Dying Without a Will in Pennsylvania
With careful estate planning, you can ensure the orderly distribution of your property upon death, and can specifically identify who will receive certain assets. What if you haven’t had a chance to prepare a will before your death? Will the state take all your property? Will your heirs simply have to fight it out?
Fortunately, the laws of Pennsylvania are set up to address such a contingency. You are always better off to put a will or trust in place, as it allows you to decide how property is divided. But Pennsylvania statute does provide for some order in the distribution of your estate if you die without a will.
When you die without a will, the law considers you to have died “intestate,” and the laws of intestacy (or intestate succession) govern how your property will pass. Intestacy laws are principally designed to protect a surviving spouse and children. There are circumstances, however, where more distant relatives may be beneficiaries of an estate.
The Laws of Intestate Succession in Pennsylvania
If you died without a will in Pennsylvania, the law first looks to see if your spouse survived you. If so, but you have no children or surviving parents at the time of your death, your entire estate goes to your spouse. If your spouse survives you, but one or both of your parents also survive you, your spouse receives $30,000 plus one half of the remaining value of the estate, with the remaining one half going to surviving parent(s).
If there are surviving children (who were also the children of the surviving spouse), the spouse receives $30,000 plus one half of the remaining estate. If at least one of the surviving children is not a child of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will only receive one half of the estate. The remaining half of the state will go to children of the decedent who were not children of the surviving spouse.
- If there is no surviving spouse, the entire estate will go (equally divided) among children of the deceased.
- If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, the estate is divided equally between the decedent’s surviving parent(s).
- If there is no surviving spouse, no children or parents, the estate will go first to any siblings of the decedent, and to their children.
- In the absence of a surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings, the estate shall be divided equally between maternal and paternal grandparents.
- If there are no grandparents, the estate will be divided equally among the deceased’s aunts and uncles.
- If no relatives can be identified, the estate goes to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
At Halligan & Keaton, in Media, Pennsylvania, we have more than 60 years of combined legal experience. We provide a free initial consultation to every client. To discuss your estate planning needs with an experienced lawyer, call our office at 610-566-6030 or contact us online. We will travel to your home, a long-term care facility or the hospital to meet with you.