When a person dies without a last will and in testament, they die “intestate.” Under these circumstances, the probate court will use Pennsylvania’s intestate succession loss to distribute the estate to your closest relatives according to Pennsylvania’s intestate succession laws. This means your assets could be given to a person you wouldn’t have otherwise chosen to receive them.
One of the most important goals of estate planning is to ensure that your assets are passed to the person, people, or charity of your choice. If you want to ensure that your assets are protected and distributed according to your wishes, the attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace are here to help. We can help you create a thorough and effective estate plan. We also represent clients involved in legal disputes related to Pennsylvania’s intestate succession laws. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace to schedule an initial consultation.
The Intestate Succession Process
The individual who passes away is referred to as the decedent in the Pennsylvania probate process. The decedent’s estate is through an administration process. The Register of Wills will appoint a personal representative or administrator to manage the distribution process.
Pennsylvania intestate laws set forward who can serve as an administrator, beginning with the decedent’s closest family members. It also sets forth who is entitled to the decedent’s probate property. For example, if the decedent was married with children when they passed away, Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws state that their state must be divided between the spouse and children.
Intestacy Laws When the Decedent Is Married or Has Children
Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws dictate which relatives will inherit the decedent’s property when he or she doesn’t have a last will and testament at his or her time of death. Pennsylvania’s intestacy statutes can be complex, especially when multiple eligible family members exist. Determining which family members are relatives who should inherit assets depends on which family members survived the decedent. Children who have been legally adopted have the same right to inherit under Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws as biological children.
For example, when the decedent dies with a spouse and no surviving parents or children, the surviving spouse inherits the entire probate estate. If the decedent dies without a surviving spouse and with children, the surviving children each inherit an equal share of the probate estate. When a decedent is survived by a spouse and children, who are also children of the surviving spouse, the spouse will inherit the first $30,000 of the estate plus half of the remaining estate. The surviving children will receive the other half of the remaining estate in equal shares.
If a spouse survives the decedent and at least one of the surviving children isn’t the surviving spouse’s child, the spouse’s share is limited to half of the estate. The remainder of the estate will be distributed to the surviving children in equal shares.
Intestacy Laws with the Decedent Does Not Have Children
If a spouse or children do not survive the decedent, the entire estate will be distributed to the decedent’s parent or parents. When the decedent isn’t survived by a spouse, children, or parents, the decedent’s siblings will receive the estate in equal shares. When a decedent isn’t survived by a spouse, children, parents, or siblings, the decedent’s surviving grandparents will receive the estate. One half of the estate will transfer to the decedent’s paternal grandparents, and the other half will go to the maternal grandparents.
Suppose the decedent has no living spouse, children, parents, siblings, or grandparents. In that case, the estate will be distributed to more distant relatives such as aunts, uncles, and their children and grandchildren. When the probate court cannot identify an eligible relative under Pennsylvania intestacy laws, the estate will pass to the state of Pennsylvania.
Disputes Related to Intestate Succession in Pittsburgh
When a person dies without a will in place, disputes regarding the distribution of assets can occur. Family members denied distribution of their loved one’s inheritance may have a legal claim under Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. Interested parties who may be entitled to the estate have a right to petition the probate court. If you believe that you are entitled to all or part of your loved one’s estate and the probate court is denying you, it’s crucial that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
The attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace represent clients in a wide range of probate matters, including pursuing claims under Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. We also represent personal representatives responsible for distributing the decedent’s assets as part of the probate process.
Ensuring Your Estate Is Distributed According to Your Wishes
If you do not have a will or trust-based estate plan, the state of Pennsylvania will have control over who receives your hard-earned estate. The judge overseeing the distribution of your estate must follow intestate succession laws. As a result, one or more family members you may not want to inherit your estate could end up being your beneficiaries.
Conversely, without a will, a family member you want to receive your assets could be excluded from inheriting your estate because they aren’t eligible under Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. The best way to ensure that your preferred beneficiaries receive your assets after you pass away is to work with an estate planning attorney to create an estate plan. Creating a basic last will and testament allows you to ensure that your wishes will be enforced after you pass away.
Discuss Your Estate with a Skilled Pittsburgh Estate Planning Attorney
Our estate planning attorneys will work with you to develop an estate plan that meets your needs and goals. We also represent clients involved in legal matters related to intestate succession. Our skilled attorneys are prepared to advocate for you if you are entitled to inherit assets under Pennsylvania’s intestate state laws. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace to schedule an initial consultation.