• What if my parents die without a will?

    Date: 08.16.07 | by Judge Tom.

    If your parents die with a will (testate), their property goes to those persons, organizations, or causes named in the will. The law doesn′t require that parents leave everything—or even anything— to their children. Property may be left as the testator chooses.

    The only way the will may be ignored and not followed is if it can be proved that the person was mentally incompetent at the time of writing the will. In other words, if you can prove that Uncle Austin was crazy when he wrote his will leaving a favorite Italian restaurant his fortune, the will may be set aside. This is called a will contest.

    Photo by FoundPhotoslj (Flickr)

    If your parents die without a will (intestate), their property follows the laws of the state where they lived. Typical intestate laws provide for the property to be split among surviving family members. Immediate family comes first, with the right to inherit branching out to extended family members. If there are no surviving family members, the property goes to the state.

    You′re not excluded from inheriting from your parents if they die while you′re a minor. If you′re named as a beneficiary, you′ll receive what is stated in the will. Most likely, some restrictions will apply on large amounts of money or certain valuables. The money may be put into a trust fund with instructions that you′ll receive part of the fund at certain ages. To help with the business and legal aspects of probate, either the will or a court may appoint an executor, or administrator, of the estate.

    If you′re curious about inheriting from your stepparent, most states don′t have laws on the subject. In order for property to pass to you from a stepparent, he or she must have indicated so in a will. Your stepparent can also make a gift of the property to you while alive, thus avoiding the need for a will.

    You should also know that property passes both ways—down to you from your parents or anyone else, and up from you to your parents. If you own property and you die intestate, the property will pass to your parents.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


    7 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Mike thatcher
      Wed, 21 Dec 2011 at 09:28

      What can a person do if their father dies and had no will? Also there is a blood sucking sister who when the mother got sick and had to go into a home she had the mother taken off the deed to the house (so not to show she owned a home) and added herself. Now the father died and she is trying to take everything and leave her younger sister nothing.
      Is there any recourse at all? If anybody has any helpful advise please let us know. Thanks
      Dear Mike: Askthejudge is an educational site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them. We don’t provide legal advice to adults or teens. We suggest you speak with a probate lawyer about this situation to assess your rights under the laws in your state. Good luck
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Mr. Miller
      Fri, 30 Mar 2012 at 12:09

      When no will is written of the state of North Carolina.
      Q:
      >Does the spouse of the deceased get everything; even over the rights of the children who are the parent legal blood line ?
      And what are the rights concerning step -children in the matter of ‘no will written’? Same state, NC.
      Thank you and God bless, Mr. Miller
      >Or do the children get items from a parents death
      Dear Mr. Miller: AsktheJudge.info is an educational site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them. We don’t provide legal advice to adults or teens.
      We suggest you speak with a lawyer familiar with wills and estates and the laws of North Carolina. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • ABE GONZALES
      Fri, 22 Jun 2012 at 11:54

      WHEN Y FATHER DIED, MY MOTHER GOT THE PROPERTY. AFTER MY MOTHER DIED MY BROTHER AND SISTER SHOULD HAVE SPLIT THE PROPERTY 3 WAYS.BUT MY BROTHER LIVED ON THE PROPERTY AND NOW HE DIED @ HIS WIFE LIVES THERE.WHAT WRIGHTS DO I AND MY SISTER HAVE. THERE WAS NO WILL AFER OUR PARENTS DIED.
      Dear Abe: AsktheJudge.info is an educational site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them. We don’t provide legal advice to adults or teens. We suggest you speak with a lawyer who practices probate and estates law in your area. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Chris Street
      Mon, 10 Dec 2012 at 06:21

      I grew up a only child. I know it should fall to me ,but I have a half brother whoo never lived with us. My mothers first child who she did not raise.She says he is her son too. How should it be split? He was raised by our grandmother.My parents let him live with them for the past 2 years what is he intitled to.
      Dear Chris: AsktheJudge.info is an educational site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them. We don’t provide legal advice to teens or adults.
      We suggest you contact a lawyer who practices probate law or deals with trusts and estates. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Lisa Hayhurst
      Mon, 10 Jun 2013 at 05:52

      My parents died recently and left no will. I have myself, the oldest, and 2 younger brothers left. Who does the house legally go to in the state of Arizona?
      Dear Lisa: AsktheJudge does not provide legal advice to adults or teens. We are an educational site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them.
      Arizona has laws regarding the passing of property when someone dies without a will. These are called intestate succession laws. You can read them at the library – ask a reference librarian for help finding them. You could also contact a lawyer to advise you of your rights. Some offer an initial free consultation. Ask about this if you call a lawyer. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • douglas m ross
      Fri, 20 Dec 2013 at 07:32

      what if parents die but leaves property and still owes a lot of money on it and no will
      Dear Douglas: Ultimately, you have to look to the laws of your state concerning the passage of property when there is no will. Generally, it’s divided up amongst surviving family members and may pass down to immediate family first. However, if the property is not fully owned, then any potential family members who would inherit such property need to find out if they can continue to make the payments on the property and become the new “owners” on the mortgage, etc. For the specific laws in your state, try Googling your state’s name and “intestate succession laws.” Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

    • Cindy
      Sat, 07 Jun 2014 at 09:48

      My dad passed without a will. At the time he passed he was living with his son that abused him. The son thinks because he has lived with him all of his life and took care of him but really never did. Anyways he thinks that every thing he left behind belongs to him and won’t give any of the other family members anything. He didn’t have much and all we are asking for is our personal pictures and at least one think we have given to my dad. What can we do get at least get our pictures?
      Dear Cindy: AsktheJudge.info is an education site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them. We don’t provide legal advice to adults or teens.
      We suggest you speak with a local attorney about your rights in this situation. Many offer free initial consultations. Ask about this if you call one. Take a look at our Resource Directory for lawyers in your area. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>