Who Inherits Property After a Person’s Death?

When a person dies without a will, the legal term “next of kin” determines who inherits their property. This article explores the concept of next of kin, its implications on estate plans, and the inheritance process in the absence of a will.

What is Next of Kin?

Next of kin refers to the closest living relative of a deceased person. This term is particularly relevant in cases of intestate succession, where someone dies without a will. In such situations, the next of kin becomes the legal heir and inherits the deceased’s property.

Determining Next of Kin

The order of next of kin typically follows this hierarchy:

  1. Spouse: The surviving spouse is usually the first in line to inherit the estate, especially if there are no children or parents.
  2. Adopted and Biological Children: Children, whether adopted or biological, have equal inheritance rights.
  3. Parents: If there is no surviving spouse or children, the parents become the next of kin.
  4. Siblings: In the absence of a spouse, children, or parents, siblings become the heirs.
  5. Other Blood Relations: If there are no surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings, the inheritance extends further down the bloodline, including grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and even cousins.

Proving Next of Kin

Establishing proof of next of kin requires providing documentation such as birth certificates, government-issued photo IDs, and possibly an affidavit from someone who can confirm the blood relationship with the deceased.

Inheritance Process as Next of Kin

If you are the next of kin, you may need a “next of kin affidavit” to claim your inheritance. This notarized document establishes your legal claim to the deceased’s property. Depending on the jurisdiction, this affidavit may be sufficient to transfer certain types of property to you.

For real estate, additional documentation is usually required, including a copy of the death certificate, a notarized deed, and probate documents.

Probate Court Involvement

Whether or not someone dies with a will, their assets usually go through probate court. This court appoints an administrator to distribute the assets and close the estate. In most cases, the next of kin, such as a spouse or child, takes on this role.

The administrator’s responsibilities include paying off debts, handling paperwork to transfer assets, and initiating the probate process.

Non-Probate Assets

Some assets, such as those placed in a trust, insurance payouts, retirement savings, and certain bank accounts with beneficiaries, bypass probate court.

Key Takeaways

  • Next of kin refers to the closest living relative of a deceased person.
  • In the absence of a will, the next of kin inherits the deceased’s property.
  • The order of next of kin typically follows a specific hierarchy, starting with the spouse and extending down the bloodline.
  • Proof of next of kin requires documentation such as birth certificates and government-issued IDs.
  • Inheriting real property usually requires additional documentation like a death certificate and a notarized deed.
  • Most assets go through probate court, where the next of kin often acts as the administrator.
  • Some assets, such as those in trusts or with designated beneficiaries, bypass probate court.

Additional Considerations

  • Adopted children have equal inheritance rights as biological children.
  • Unmarried partners and friends are not considered next of kin.
  • Next of kin are not obligated to pay the deceased’s debts.
  • Anyone can refuse to be next of kin, and the role will pass to the next eligible candidate.

Estate Planning for Peace of Mind

While understanding the concept of next of kin is important, creating a will ensures your wishes are followed and minimizes potential disputes among loved ones. Estate planning documents like wills and trusts provide clarity and peace of mind, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your desires.

We Will Guide You Through the Probate Process

Fill Out Our Short Form For a FREE Evaluation!

who will inherit property after a persons death

who will inherit property after a persons death

Who Receives Your Property When You Die Without a Will?

Probate, also known as estate administration by lawyers, is the procedure used to settle a decedent’s estate. In this procedure, a personal representative—also referred to as an administrator or executor—is chosen, all obligations and taxes are settled, and the inheritance is distributed to the intended beneficiaries. The distribution of cash, real estate, and personal belongings from the estate is decided by the deceased’s last will and testament.

But what happens if you die without a will in Pennsylvania? Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. Many people do not realize that Pennsylvania has an Intestate Succession law (20 P.S. § 2101 et seq.) which sets the rules for who receives a share of your estate if you die without a will. Here is a link to the intestacy law if you wish to review for your own reference.

It is crucial to understand that the intestacy law only applies to property that is a part of the probate estate. Unless there is an exception, the majority of assets that were registered in the name of the deceased are regarded as probate assets. Because it transfers by operation of law to another individual directly, non-probate property is not subject to the probate process. Some examples of non-probate property may include:

  • Retirement accounts
  • Trust assets
  • Property held in entirety tenancy by married individuals
  • Property held in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship with another individual
  • Transfer or payable on death accounts

What Does the Law Say About Who Receives the Property?

Which relatives of the deceased person survived the decedent determines who gets the property that is part of the deceased’s estate when they pass away without a will. The surviving spouse and the deceased’s children are the first heirs to inherit property. Property next passes to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews if the deceased left no surviving spouse or children.

An outline of how property transfers without a will is provided below:

Deceased has a surviving spouse, but no surviving children or parents The spouse receives the entire estate
Deceased has surviving children, but no surviving spouse The children receive the entire estate
Deceased has a surviving spouse and surviving children The spouse receives the first $30,000 of the estate, plus half of the remaining estate. The children receive the remaining half
Deceased has a surviving spouse and at least one child who is not the child of the surviving spouse The spouse receives half of the estate. The children receive the remaining half
Deceased has a surviving spouse, surviving parents, but no children The spouse receives the first $30,000 of the estate, plus half of the remaining estate. The parents receive the remaining half
Deceased has surviving parents, but no surviving spouse or children The parents receive the entire estate
Deceased has surviving siblings but no surviving spouse, children or parents The siblings receive the entire estate

The First Step – Obtaining Appointment as the Administrator

The proposed administrator’s lawyer will submit a petition for the grant of letters of administration to the Register of Wills. Renunciations signed by each of the other heirs must be attached to the petition. The Renunciation transfers the right to act as the estate’s Administrator to another individual.

The administration procedure can start as soon as the Letters of Administration are approved.

We assist estate executors in settling estates quickly and with less stress as a probate law firm. Please have the person you know who is facing probate or estate property sale obstacles get in touch with us for a free assessment.

Download our probate handbook HERE. To help you manage the estate, we’ll send you useful probate guides and resources.

Inheritance Rights of a Surviving Spouse and Children of a Deceased Parent


Who is first in line for inheritance?

The line of inheritance begins with direct offspring, starting with their children, then their grandchildren, followed by any great-grandchildren, and so on. The legal status of stepchildren and adopted children varies by jurisdiction.

Who inherits in Texas when there is no will?

If you die with:
here’s what happens:
children but no spouse
children inherit everything
spouse but no children, parents, or siblings
spouse inherits everything
parents but no children, spouse, or siblings
parents inherit everything
siblings but no children, spouse, or parents
siblings inherit everything

What happens when someone dies with no family?

If no relatives can be found, the estate goes to the state.

Can siblings fight for inheritance?

4. Family Conflict Over Inheritance of Property and Values. Even when families agree on who is entitled to a share of the estate, family conflict can still arise over the inheritance of property specifically.

Who inherits property if a spouse dies?

Generally, only spouses, registered domestic partners, and blood relatives inherit under intestate succession laws; unmarried partners, friends, and charities get nothing. If the deceased person was married, the surviving spouse usually gets the largest share. If there are no children, the surviving spouse often receives all the property.

Who inherits property if there is no will?

To find out who inherits other assets—solely owned property for which no beneficiary has been formally named, such as a house—you’ll need to consult state law. Every state has “intestate succession” laws that parcel out property to the deceased person’s closest relatives when there’s no will. More on this below.

What happens if you inherit a house?

Inheriting a house — while a generous gift from a loved one — kicks off a process that can be fraught with emotion. You’re likely receiving this property as a result of a loved one’s death, and the financial decisions that come with inheriting property can be stressful and confusing.

Can a deceased heir inherit a family?

If an intestate succession law includes the deceased person’s “sisters and brothers” or “siblings” as heirs, this group generally includes half-siblings and may even include half-siblings who were adopted out of the family. Obviously, an heir who has died can’t inherit.

Leave a Comment