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Intestate succession explained

A common question posed to us here at Sikov and Love, P.A. is what happens when a Pittsburgh resident dies without a will. When a loved one dies whose estate you may have an interest in, your first thought might be that without a will in place, it is left to you and other heirs to decide how their assets are to be dispersed. Unfortunately, that is not the case. One who dies without a will is viewed as being "intestate," and Pennsylvania has established laws detailing exactly how intestate estates are to be handled. 

According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, if you are the surviving spouse of one who has died intestate, your rightful claim to the estate is: 

  • The entire value if your spouse has no issue (direct descendants) or surviving parents
  • The first $30,000, plus one-half of the remaining value of there are surviving issue (who are also your issue)
  • One-half of its value if there are surviving issue who are not your issue
  • The first $30,000, plus one-half of the remaining value if there no surviving issue but your spouse is survived by one or both of their parents

If you are not the surviving spouse of the decedent, then your claim to their estate (if you are allowed one) will depend on your relationship. When there is no surviving spouse, an intestate estate passes  (in equal portion) to the decedent's issue, then their parents, siblings, grandparents, and next-of-kin (in that order). If your family member or friend has no surviving relatives, their assets go to the Commonwealth. 

Maintaining control over who gets what assets that comprise one's estate is one of the reasons why you are encouraged to not put off your estate planning. More information on estate administration can be found here on our site. 

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