When a person passes away without a Will the law determines who receives shares of the estate and in what proportions. Dying without a Will is called “intestacy” and the shares which pass by intestacy are called “intestate shares”.
The law is laid out very clearly as to who receives shares and in what amounts. The family structure determines who receives the property which is part of the deceased’s estate. How the estate will be distributed depends on which relatives of the deceased person survived the decedent. The first heirs in line to receive property are the surviving spouse and the deceased’s children. If the deceased did not leave a surviving spouse or children, then the property next passes to the parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.
One common question I am asked by potential clients is what happens to the share of an heir who dies before the person who is leaving the inheritance. For example, if a parent had three children but one of whom passed away prior to the death of the parent, what happens to the share of the predeceased child? In Pennsylvania, the inheritance will pass to their children, who are the deceased’s grandchildren, in a process called right of representation. This means the inheritance which would have passed to the predeceased heir is distributed to their direct descendants, ensuring the legacy continues within the family.
One important distinction is that it is not the estate of the predeceased heir who receives a share but the descendants of that predeceased heir. In other words, the grandchildren receive the share directly rather than passing through the predeceased heir’s estate.
As a probate attorney to estate executors, I help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to a property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:
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