If a person dies without a will, the person died intestate. The person who died is called the decedent. The decedent's property is given to the decedent's heirs during a probate court case. Heirs are the beneficiaries of a person who dies without a will.
A decedent's relatives also get part of the estate. For example, if there is a spouse and two children, the spouse gets half of the money from the estate. The children get the other half divided equally between them. If there is no spouse, but three children, the children get everything divided equally.
If the person had no spouse or children, then their property goes to their next closest surviving relatives. These might include their:
- Adult siblings
- Nieces and nephews
The probate court assigns an administrator to settle the decedent's estate when there is no will. The administrator has to do certain things, including:
- Gathering all of the person's assets
- Paying bills
- Giving out the estate property to those people who should receive money or property
Unborn children and assisted reproduction
A child born after a decedent dies can still be included in the estate. The child must be in utero at the time of the decedent's death. In utero means developing in the womb, but not born yet.
The child can also be counted if it was created with assisted reproduction. The child will be included if:
- The decedent is the biological parent of the child (the sperm or egg of the decedent was used to create the child);
- The child is born within 36 months of the decedent's death;
- The decedent consented in writing before death to be a legal parent of any potential child created from their sperm or egg; and
- The administrator of the estate receives a written notice with a copy of the decedent's written consent within six months of the decedent's death.
Updated: September 2017