What if my parents die without a will?
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.
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.