What happens when someone dies with no will?

Full Question:

My stepfather died with no will. He had a son, step-son and step-daughter. How does his property get settled?
05/08/2007   |   Category: Wills and Estates   |   State: Pennsylvania   |   #4122

Answer:

A person who dies without a will dies 'intestate.' The property or estate of a person who dies without a will will be distributed according to the state's laws of intestate succession. His property will pass to his heirs by the laws of descent and distribution.

Assuming your stepfather was domiciled in and died in Pennsylvania, the applicable statutes are as follows:

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2101. Intestate estate

(a) General rule. — All or any part of the estate of a decedent
not effectively disposed of by will or otherwise passes to his heirs as
prescribed in this chapter, except as modified by the decedent's will.

(b) Modification by decedent's will. — A decedent by will may
expressly exclude or limit the right of an individual or class to succeed
to property of the decedent passing by intestate succession. If that
individual or a member of that class survives the decedent, the share of
the decedent's intestate estate to which the individual or class would
have succeeded passes as if that individual or each member of that class
had disclaimed his intestate share.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2102. Share of surviving spouse

The intestate share of a decedent's surviving spouse is:

(1) If there is no surviving issue or parent of the decedent, the
entire intestate estate.

(2) If there is no surviving issue of the decedent but he is survived
by a parent or parents, the first $30,000 plus one-half of the balance of
the intestate estate. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the case of a
decedent who died as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, a surviving spouse shall be entitled to 100% of any compensation
award paid pursuant to the Air Transportation Safety and System
Stabilization Act (Public Law 107-42, 115 Stat. 230).[fn1]

(3) If there are surviving issue of the decedent all of whom are issue
of the surviving spouse also, the first $30,000 plus one-half of the
balance of the intestate estate.

(4) If there are surviving issue of the decedent one or more of whom
are not issue of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate.

(5) In case of partial intestacy any property received by the surviving
spouse under the will shall satisfy pro tanto the $30,000 allowance under
paragraphs (2) and (3).

[fn1] 49 U.S.A.C § 40101 note.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2103. Shares of others than surviving spouse

The share of the estate, if any, to which the surviving spouse is not
entitled, and the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse, shall
pass in the following order:

(1) Issue. — To the issue of the decedent.

(2) Parents. — If no issue survives the decedent, then to
the parents or parent of the decedent.

(3) Brothers, sisters, or their issue. — If no parent survives
the decedent, then to the issue of each of the decedent's parents.

(4) Grandparents. — If no issue of either of the decedent's
parents but at least one grandparent survives the decedent, then half to
the paternal grandparents or grandparent, or if both are dead, to the
children of each of them and the children of the deceased children of
each of them, and half to the maternal grandparents or grandparent, or if
both are dead to the children of each of them and the children of the
deceased children of each of them. If both of the paternal grandparents
or both of the maternal grandparents are dead leaving no child or
grandchild to survive the decedent, the half which would have passed to
them or to their children and grandchildren shall be added to the half
passing to the grandparents or grandparent or to their children and
grandchildren on the other side.

(5) Uncles, aunts and their children, and grandchildren. — If no
grandparent survives the decedent, then to the uncles and aunts and the
children and grandchildren of deceased uncles and aunts of the decedent
as provided in section 2104(1) (relating to taking in different
degrees).

(6) Commonwealth. — In default of all persons hereinbefore
described, then to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2104. Rules of succession

The provisions of this chapter shall be applied to both real and
personal estate in accordance with the following rules:

(1) Taking in different degrees. — The shares passing under this
chapter to the issue of the decedent, to the issue of his parents or
grandparents or to his uncles or aunts or to their children, or
grandchildren, shall pass to them as follows: The part of the estate
passing to any such persons shall be divided into as many equal shares as
there shall be persons in the nearest degree of consanguinity to the
decedent living and taking shares therein and persons in that degree who
have died before the decedent and have left issue to survive him who take
shares therein. One equal share shall pass to each such living person in
the nearest degree and one equal share shall pass by representation to
the issue of each such deceased person, except that no issue of a child
of an uncle or aunt of the decedent shall be entitled to any share of the
estate unless there be no relatives as close as a child of an uncle or
aunt living and taking a share therein, in which case the grandchildren
of uncles and aunts of the decedent shall be entitled to share, but no
issue of a grandchild of an uncle or aunt shall be entitled to any share
of the estate.

(2) Taking in same degree. — When the persons entitled to take
under this chapter other than as a surviving spouse are all in the same
degree of consanguinity to the decedent, they shall take in equal
shares.

(3) Whole and half blood. — Persons taking under this chapter
shall take without distinction between those of the whole and those of
the half blood.

(4) After-born persons; time of determining relationships. —
Persons begotten before the decedent's death but born thereafter, shall
take as if they had been born in his lifetime.

(5) Source of ownership. — Real estate shall pass under this
chapter without regard to the ancestor or other relation from whom it has
come.

(6) Quantity of estate. — Any person taking real or personal
estate under this chapter shall take such interest as the decedent had
therein.

(7) Tenancy in estate. — When real or personal estate or shares
therein shall pass to two or more persons, they shall take it as tenants
in common, except that if it shall pass to a husband and wife they shall
take it as tenants by the entireties.

(8) Alienage. — Real and personal estate shall pass without
regard to whether the decedent or any person otherwise entitled to take
under this chapter is or has been an alien.

(9) Person related to decedent through two lines. — A person
related to the decedent through two lines of relationship shall take one
share only which shall be the larger share.

(10) Requirement that heir survive decedent for five days. — Any
person who fails to survive the decedent by five days shall be deemed to
have predeceased the decedent for purposes of intestate succession and
the decedent's heirs shall be determined accordingly. If the time of
death of the decedent or of a person who would otherwise be an heir, or
the times of death of both, cannot be determined, and it cannot be
established that the person who would otherwise be an heir survived the
decedent by five days, that person shall be deemed to have failed to
survive for the required period. This section shall not be applied where
its application would result in a taking by the Commonwealth under
section 2103(6) (relating to shares of others than surviving spouse).

(11) Intestacy following valid prior estate. — In the event of an
intestacy occurring at the termination of a valid prior estate, the
identity and shares of the intestate heirs then entitled to take shall be
ascertained as though the death of the testator, settlor or grantor had
occurred at the time of the termination of the prior estate.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2105. Spouse's rights

(a) Widow. — The share of the estate to which a widow is
entitled under this title shall be in lieu and full satisfaction
of her dower at common law.

(b) Surviving husband. — The share of the estate to which a
surviving husband is entitled under this title shall be in lieu and full
satisfaction of his courtesy at common law.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2106. Forfeiture

(a) Spouse's share. — A spouse who, for one year or upwards
previous to the death of the other spouse, has willfully neglected or
refused to perform the duty to support the other spouse, or who for one
year or upwards has willfully and maliciously deserted the other spouse,
shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the real or
personal estate of the other spouse.

(b) Parent's share. — Any parent who, for one year or upwards
previous to the death of the parent's minor or dependent child, has:

(1) failed to perform the duty to support the minor or dependent child
or who, for one year, has deserted the minor or dependent child; or

(2) been convicted of one of the following offenses under Title 18:

section 4303 (relating to concealing death of child);

section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children);

section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children); or an equivalent
crime under Federal law or the law of another state involving his or her
child;

shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the real or
personal estate of the minor or dependent child. The determination under
paragraph (1) shall be made by the court after considering the quality,
nature and extent of the parent's contact with the child and the
physical, emotional and financial support provided to the child.

(c) Slayer's share. — Any person who participates either as a
principal or as an accessory before the fact in the wilful and unlawful
killing of any person shall not in any way acquire property or receive
any benefits as the result of such killing, but such property or benefits
shall be distributed as provided in Chapter 88 of this code (relating to
slayers).[fn1]

(d) Surviving spouse as witness. — The surviving husband or
wife shall be a competent witness as to all matters pertinent to
the issue of forfeiture under this section.

[fn1] 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 8801 et seq.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2107. Persons born out of wedlock

(a) Child of mother. — For purposes of descent by, from and
through a person born out of wedlock, he shall be considered the
child of his mother.

(b) Deleted by amendment. 1978, Nov. 26, P.L. 1269, No. 303, § 1,
imd. effective.

(c) Child of father. — For purposes of descent by, from and
through a person born out of wedlock, he shall be considered the child of
his father when the identity of the father has been determined in any one
of the following ways:

(1) If the parents of a child born our of wedlock shall have married
each other.

(2) If during the lifetime of the child, the father openly holds out
the child to be his and receives the child into his home, or openly holds
the child out to be his and provides support for the child which shall be
determined by clear and convincing evidence.

(3) If there is clear and convincing evidence that the man was the
father of the child, which may include a prior court determination of
paternity.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2108. Adopted person

For purposes of inheritance by, from and through an adopted
person he shall be considered the issue of his adopting parent
or parents. An adopted person shall not be considered as
continuing to be the child or issue of his natural parents
except in distributing the estate of a natural kin, other than
the natural parent, who has maintained a family relationship
with the adopted person. If a natural parent shall have married
the adopting parent, the adopted person for purposes of
inheritance by, from and through him shall also be considered
the issue of such natural parent.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2109.1. Advancements

If a person dies intestate as to all or any part of his estate,
property which he gave in his lifetime to an heir is treated as an
advancement against the latter's share of the estate only if declared in
a writing by the decedent or acknowledged in writing by the heir to be an
advancement. For this purpose the property advanced is valued as of the
time the heir came into possession or enjoyment of the property or as of
the time of death of the decedent, whichever first occurs. If the
recipient of the property fails to survive the decedent, the property is
not taken into account in computing the intestate share to be received by
the recipient's issue unless the declaration or acknowledgment so
provides.

20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2110. Spouse's allowance; procedure

The allowance shall be set aside and awarded in distribution to
the surviving spouse, or his successor in interest, in the same
manner as other distributive shares of the estate are awarded,
without any right in the surviving spouse to choose particular
real or personal property in satisfaction thereof. Nothing herein
shall be construed as limiting the right of the surviving spouse
and other distributees to demand that property, not theretofore
sold, be distributed in kind to them.

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