When someone dies without a will, or dies intestate, the state in which they live decides what happens to their assets. Every state has its own intestacy laws that determine who inherits property, although almost all states follow the same general guidelines. Succession goes in order of relation from a spouse to children to more distant relatives.
If the Senior Was Married
If the senior was married without children, the estate may go to the surviving spouse if it’s community property, or it may be split between the surviving spouse as well as siblings and parents if the property was owned separately. If the senior was married with children (including adult children), the entire estate or the largest share will go to the surviving spouse. According to El Dorado County elderly care professionals, there are some cases in which the surviving spouse will only receive up to half of the estate with the rest going to surviving children, including if the children are grown or from another spouse.
If the Senior Was Not Married
When someone dies intestate with no spouse, their property will be divided among blood and adopted relatives. States group relatives in order of succession, and children (whether grown or minors, biological or adopted) are first in line. The state will divide assets equally (or as close to equal as possible) among the senior’s children. Note that a senior’s biological children who were adopted by an unrelated person cannot inherit the senior’s property under intestate laws. A child who was adopted by a stepparent can still inherit from a biological parent in some states.
Intestate laws tend to vary a great deal when there are no children or surviving spouse. Some states include a deceased person’s siblings as heirs and this usually includes half-siblings. Most states also allow an heir’s children to inherit their parent’s share of assets if the parent dies. In this case, children or grandchildren can stand in for their deceased parent to receive the inheritance.
When making end-of-life plans, it’s also important to consider long-term care options. If your senior loved one wishes to age in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance to learn more about in-home care services including stroke, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care for seniors in El Dorado County. Call us at (916) 358-3801 and speak with a friendly Care Manager today.