When someone passes away one of the first things that needs to be done is reviewing the last will and testament. The will provides direction on how to carry out the end of life services, who will act as the executor and who will receive property from the estate.
But what if there’s no will? How is the estate settled?
Dying without a will is surprisingly common in the U.S. Over two-thirds of Americans don’t have a last will and testament. Each state has their own estate laws, but often the assets and property will transfer to the next of kin.
This is when things can get contentious. Is a second wife or husband considered the next of kin or the deceased’s child? And what if the person had more than one child?
Know Who Could Be Considered Next of Kin
Next of kin is a fairly broad term that could apply to a number of people. Generally speaking, blood relatives fall into the category:
You may have noticed that spouses aren’t on the list. They aren’t considered next of kin because spouses aren’t blood relatives. But that doesn’t mean a husband or wife is cut out if their spouse died without a will. It’s actually the exact opposite. In most cases, the surviving spouse inherits everything if there’s no will.
Learn the State Intestacy Laws
Who falls into the next of kin category and their order in terms of inheritance is determined by state laws called intestacy laws. And every state has its own unique set of laws to dictate the process.
For instance, some states will also include family members in the great- generations. Cousins may or may not be included. If they are considered, it’s usually not unless there are no other known relatives.
This is when questions can come up in terms of who is next of kin for inheritance purposes. If there are four first cousins, who should be the next of kin? If there are two siblings, two surviving parents or three aunts who inherits the estate?
Probate Court Will Settle Next of Kin Disputes
If there’s no will the matter will likely be handled in the probate court. An administrator will be appointed. Typically, that role goes to the next of kin. The administrator decides who inherits property and/or assets.
But the administrator is supposed to follow state intestacy laws when they’re distributing assets. All the more reason to make sure you are familiar with these laws if you or your loved ones don’t have a last will and testament.
What Happens If There’s No Next of Kin?
It’s rare, but there are instances when no next of kin comes forward or can be located. Whenever this happens, the deceased’s property typically transfers to the state.
Direct Cremate makes the cremation process extremely simple for families so they can focus on other estate matters needing their attention. Our experts can help guide you through the process today.