What Happens When A Person Dies Without A Will?

Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Articles, Trusts and Estates | Comments Off on What Happens When A Person Dies Without A Will?

If a person dies without a will, he or she is said to die “intestate.” Without a will, Washington law determines the order in which persons inherit intestate property. The intestacy statues operate on the theory that most persons prefer near relatives to more remote relatives.

In Washington, there is a strong presumption that assets acquired during marriage are community property. Separate property is usually defined as assets acquired prior to marriage and not commingled with community property, personal injury damages, and gifts and inheritances.

If a married person or state registered domestic partner dies intestate, all of the community property will pass to the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner. The separate property of the deceased will pass to the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, as follows:

  • One-half of the net separate estate if the deceased is survived by children or grandchildren (the children will receive the other one-half)
  • Three-quarters of the net separate estate if there is no surviving children or grandchildren, but the deceased’s parents or grandparents are still living (the parents or grandparents will receive the remaining one-fourth interest)
  • All of the net separate estate if there is no surviving children (or children of children, etc.) or parents (or parents of parents, etc.).

RCW 11.04.015 describes other situations, depending on the survivors.

Any interested party may petition the court to request appointment as the administrator of the Estate of the deceased person. The distribution of the assets is determined by the intestacy laws. Unlike admitting a will into probate, the court may require a bond and needs to supervise the distribution of assets.

In practical terms, family members often become aware of this issue when a piece of real property needs to be sold and the deceased person is still on title, died intestate, and no Petition for Probate has been made. If the sale to a third party will happen shortly, a title company may be willing to issue a title insurance policy if the heirs complete an “Affidavit of Non-Probate.” This allows for title to pass to the new buyer, resolving this one piece of property of the deceased’s estate.

The following articles are published for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Please contact Galvin Realty Law Group at 425.248.2163 for a consultation about your specific needs and circumstances.