What Happens If You Die without a Will in Pennsylvania?
Black and Davison
There’s a common misperception that, if you die without a will in Pennsylvania, no one will know what to do with your property and your heirs will have to fight it out in probate court. To the contrary, Pennsylvania, like other states, has laws that specifically provide for the distribution of assets when a person dies without a will. Such a person is considered to have died “intestate,” and the distribution of the estate is governed by Pennsylvania’s laws of intestacy.
Contrary to another common myth, the laws of intestacy do not give all the deceased’s property to the state. Here’s an overview of the general distribution set forth in the Pennsylvania intestacy laws:
- If there are no surviving children — If you die leaving a spouse, but have no living children or parents, your spouse is entitled to the entire estate. If you have no surviving children, but a parent was alive at the time of your death, your spouse gets the first $30,000 and half of any residuary estate. Surviving parents will share the rest of the estate.
- If there are surviving children — If your spouse survives you, and all of your surviving children are also the children of your spouse, your spouse will get the first $30,000, plus half of any remaining property. If, however, you have any surviving children who are not the offspring of your surviving spouse, your surviving spouse only gets half of the estate (and is not entitled to the first $30,000).
- No surviving spouse — If your spouse predeceased you, your entire estate will go to your children. If you have no surviving children, the estate will be divided equally between your parents. If you have no surviving spouse, children or parents, the estate will go to your siblings or their children. If you had no surviving siblings, any living grandparents may share the estate (half to paternal and half to maternal grandparents). If there are no grandparents, the estate goes to your uncles, aunts and their children and grandchildren. Only if there are no such surviving relatives will the estate go to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.