The first step after you die intestate (without a will), is for the court to appoint a personal representative or administrator to handle your affairs. Then your property will be split up according to the laws of intestacy, which usually favor your closest relatives. Here is how intestacy may affect your loved ones.
Your Spouse and Children
Your surviving spouse and children usually receive equal portions of your property if you die intestate. However, this can become complicated if you or your spouse also has children from a prior relationship. Your stepchildren may not inherit, or only the children of your current spouse may divide your property among them.
If both you and your spouse die and neither of you has a will to appoint a guardian for your minor children, the court will decide whom they should live with, usually a close relative.
Your Parents and Siblings
If both of your parents are still living, they will likely inherit your entire estate if you are unmarried with no children. If only one parent is living but you also have siblings, each of your brothers and sisters, along with your surviving parent, will likely receive an equal share of your inheritance. This is true regardless of the relationship that you had with your siblings, whether it was friendly or otherwise.
Your Unmarried Partner
Even if you have a relationship with a partner with whom you have lived for many years, the laws of intestacy do not recognize him or her as a relative for purposes of inheritance. If you die without a will, your romantic partner will likely end up inheriting nothing.
Though you may consider your pet a family member, the law considers pets to be property. Therefore, you cannot name a guardian for a pet in a will the way you would for a minor child. However, you can leave a pet to someone in your will as property if you have someone in mind whom you know will take care of it. If you do not make out a will, it will probably fall to your family members to decide who takes care of your pet. Many dogs and cats end up in shelters this way.
The laws of intestacy exist so that the court does not have to make guesses as to what your final wishes would be. However, you can make these wishes clearly known by making out a will. An estate planning lawyer in Allentown, PA would be happy to assist you with this when you contact a law office.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and dying without a will.