Personal Belongings after Death without a Will

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“Do you ever think about what would happen to your Personal Belongings after Death without a Will? Your jewelry, collectibles, art, antiques, and other valuables? Your personal belongings will become part of your estate if you pass away without a will and be subject to intestacy laws if you don’t leave a will. And your items will be divided based on state law, which can lead to family conflict and confusion.”

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Personal Belongings after Death without a Will

Regardless of the value of your Personal Belongings after Death without a Will, it is still essential to plan how to handle them after your passing. This article discusses what happens to your Personal Belongings after Death without a Will and how you can get help.


But First, Why Having a Will is SO Important

Death is inevitable, but many do not plan for it effectively. Things can get complicated quickly if you don’t have a last will.

The most important thing you can do for yourself and your family is to have a will. Your loved ones will likely receive the items you leave behind as you intended if you have a will, and you can be confident that they will receive them after you die.

Personal belongings after death with a will, your family could need to help understand what you would have wanted if your estate went in a way you disagreed with. The benefit of having a will is that your family will not have to worry about it if your estate passes following your wishes. In addition, having a will ensures that your family and other beneficiaries receive the amount of money, property, and any other desires you have when you die.


Intestacy – What Does It Mean When You Die Without A Will?

What happens to your belongings when you die without a will? Intestacy, or intestate succession, occurs when an individual dies without creating a Will. As explained below, intestacy varies from state to state, underscoring an estate plan’s importance.

When an individual dies, their assets pass among their spouse, children, parents, or siblings according to the state’s intestate process. Those who die without a Will have their assets frozen until the court system looks through every detail of their estate.

In the second step, the court uses its state’s intestacy laws to determine whether a person’s possessions will pass to the surviving family members. This can be tedious and exhausting, but avoiding it is simple.

Read on to learn what happens if you pass away before you draft a will to protect your children, money, and other personal belongings after death without a Will.


The Intestate Succession Laws

The intestate succession laws of your state dictate what happens to your money when you die without creating a Will. A probate court distributes the deceased’s belongings in the event of a dead person’s passing. Probate can cut off all creditor claims at the beginning of the process. It can take as little as three months for creditors to file a claim.


The Intestate Succession Laws


Depending on where you live, your property will be divided according to the state’s rules. So, if you don’t have a Will, who gets your property? Usually, your spouse receives your assets first, followed by your children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings.

What happens next with your personal belongings after death without a Will? In most cases, the same order applies. The surviving spouse is first in line to serve as the estate’s administrator or personal representative. In the next place, children, grandchildren, etc. Co-administrators of the estate can be named as people in the same priority level (“equal” priority), or the court may appoint only one co-administrator.


Children of the deceased without a will

What happens to your belongings when you die? Creating an estate plan and naming your children as beneficiaries is especially important for parents since the court determines the rights of your children if you pass away without making a Will.

Even though state judges will do their best to ensure the guardianship of a child is in their best interest, they cannot determine “what is best” without knowing the child or family dynamics. The children of deceased family members usually grow up with family members willing to do so. However, there is no guarantee that the child will end up in the household of their parents’ choosing without a proper will.


Taxes & property after death: dying without a will

There are several ways to tax your estate after death, but here are a few basics we’ll cover.

Unless you have written a Will, your estate is generally exempt from state taxes if you die before writing one. Federal estate taxes apply on estates worth more than $11.58 million, but anything under that amount is taxable at 40 percent.

  • If your estate is worth more than $1.6 million, you may pay taxes at 16 percent. Your spouse and children will share in the estate tax in other states.
  • If you delay writing your will, you may also forfeit your spouse’s marital deduction (which enables them to inherit your entire estate tax-free when documented in your will).


Do you have a single, married, or domestic partner in the event of dead without a will?

Above, we have described what might happen when a person dies before drafting a Will, but we will now explain what could happen based on their relationship at their death.



When you die without a Will and are single, you can experience several scenarios. In the first scenario, your children will inherit your entire estate if you do not have any other children. If you do not have children, your parents (if still living) will take care of your estate.

Lastly, if your parents have died and you have no children, your estate will go to your siblings (in equal shares). If neither your mother’s nor father’s families have children, siblings, or descendants of siblings, you can divide your assets equally between them.



Generally, if you pass away without a Will, your surviving spouse will receive some of your assets. You’ll have to talk to your personal estate planner about the differences between rules and regulations from state to state.

If you marry in California and have children with just your surviving spouse, the spouse receives 100 percent of your community assets; the remaining assets pass according to intestate succession law.

Individuals with children from a previous partner will receive one-half of their estate equally, and the other half will go to the surviving current partner. A person’s exact estate distribution varies from state to state. For example, in Tennessee, the surviving spouse receives only a third of the estate, and the children receive the remaining portion.


Domestic partnership:

Sadly, not every state legally recognizes domestic partnerships, so you must check your state’s regulations when dividing assets after someone dies. Domestic partners (depending on how the property belongs to them) are generally granted the same rights as spouses in most states.


Intestate Succession Law Determines Who is Entitled to Inherit

An individual who died recently without leaving behind a will can be said to have died “intestate.” In your state, intestate succession law determines who is entitled to inherit the deceased person’s personal belongings, who administers the estate (personal representative), and who becomes the guardian of any minor children, if any.

If a family member dies intestate, blood relatives inherit their separate property in the following order:


Surviving Descendants:

According to California intestacy laws, surviving children receive a share of a deceased person’s separate property first. Children with adopted parents, minors, and adults are equally entitled to a percentage of the inheritance.

When a deceased person’s children have already passed away and left behind children of their own, they (the deceased’s grandchildren) will share the assets that belonged to their parents.


Surviving Parents:

A deceased person’s parents may inherit their property if they are the only living relatives of the dead.


Surviving Siblings:

In a case where a deceased person had no siblings by the parents but by siblings by the same parents, the siblings are next in line to inherit the estate. When half-siblings are involved, they do not obtain the same share as their full-blooded siblings.


Other Family Members:

A deceased person’s property goes to other relatives who are more distant than their descendants, parents, siblings, or spouses.


The State:

What happens to belongings after death? If a deceased person has no remaining relatives, the state will assume responsibility for the estate.

There are two possible outcomes when it comes to community property. A spouse has usufruct when the deceased spouse has both surviving spouses (or, in some states, registered domestic partners) and children and grandchildren.

  • This means they have the right to use their deceased spouse’s share of the estate until they remarry or until the end of their life. If the surviving spouse dies or remarries, all separate property will pass to the descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.).
  • It ceases to be community property if neither partner survives, but if both descendants survive, they will divide the inheritance equally.
  • There shall be no inheritance if no descendants survive, but if a spouse outlives, the property will pass in its entirety.
  • The entire estate must be passed down to both or one of the surviving parents if no descendants or spouses survive the deceased.
  • A deceased’s property will be divided among the deceased’s siblings and their descendants (nieces/nephews of the dead) if none of those survivors survive (spouse, parents, or children of the deceased).
  • If none of these relatives survive, half of the estate will go among the maternal grandparents and their descendants, and the remaining half will go among the living paternal grandparents and their descendants.


Who Gets What When An Executor Is Appointed?

What happens to your personal belongings after death without a Will? When the deceased person creates a will, they choose an executor to manage their estate. The executor manages a decedent’s estate after the decedent’s death. Without a will, the court will appoint the executor itself. State law requires an executor to be 18 years old, of sound mind, and of good moral character. The person must not also have a criminal history.

There are certain things that an executor of a will cannot and cannot do. In probate court, the executor does not decide who gets what. The executor’s responsible for managing the inheritance rather than the dead person’s will if they are intestate or if the deceased person is intestate.


Things to Do To Set Up a Bank Account

There are several things to do to set up a bank account for an estate:

  • Pay debts.
  • Obtain death certificates.
  • Notify government agencies.
  • Take inventory of assets.
  • Ensure the share goes equally.
  • Executors cannot perform specific tasks.

What an executor can and cannot do:

  • Until its creator dies, manage the estate.
  • Decide who the beneficiary is.
  • Don’t include a named beneficiary.
  • The sign is necessary for your will.
  • Make changes to the will.
  • Undervalue the estate’s assets (unless the heirs agree)
  • Keep beneficiaries or family members from contesting a will.


How Can Family Members Deal With The Death Of Someone Without A Will?

What happens to your personal belongings after death without a Will? Many people pass away without a written will, whether they cannot do so in time or need help to understand the importance of having one. Unfortunately, potential beneficiaries and heirs can become confused and left empty-handed, or even preyed upon, if a will is missing.


What Options Are Available To Family Members If Their Loved One Dies Without A Will?

When someone dies who gets their belongings? As a first step, they need to file for a proceeding referred to as an “Administrative Proceeding.” This process of Personal belonging after dying without a will in California is similar to probate court. But instead of being determined by a will, we can define it by the state’s laws that govern intestate succession.

Courts determine an estate administrator during an Administrative Proceeding, and the assets will transfer accordingly. There are usually three types of administrators:

  • A surviving spouse or civil partner,
  • A surviving adult child,
  • Or the deceased’s parents.


Bottom Line

Not having a Will can lead to numerous burdens for surviving family members. Think of a Will as your voice post-mortem. You can dictate how your assets pass after your death with a Will.

It’s essential to prioritize your estate planning today, even though every state’s law aims to protect the interests of descendants. With Attorney Real Estate Group, you can make your estate plan as simple as possible. We’re here to keep things simple. It only takes 20 minutes to create an estate plan tailored to your state.

Hedy Ghavidel

HEDY GHAVIDEL Managing Attorney  Roseville Office  1-866-471-6981  Bio...

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