If someone dies without a valid will (intestate), the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia will determine the heirs and how to distribute the estate fairly. Probate can be easier when there is a will, as the court will follow the decedent’s written wishes. But the set guidelines make intestate cases more manageable.
Here is what you should know:
Who inherits the estate?
If the decedent has a surviving spouse, they may inherit everything. This rule may also apply if all of the decedent’s children are with the surviving spouse.
If the decedent has one or more children with someone other than the surviving spouse, 1/3 of the estate will go to the surviving spouse, and the remaining 2/3 will be divided among the children.
Note that in Virginia, biological and adopted children have equal rights to inheritance. A child conceived after death also has the same inheritance rights as others.
If there is no surviving spouse, the entire estate will pass to the children. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the estate will go to the decedent’s mother or father. If none, all passes to the decedent’s brothers and sisters and their descendants.
Who will be the executor?
A testator (someone who writes a will) typically names an executor who will ensure their wishes are fulfilled. But what if there is no will?
In an intestate case, the clerk of the Circuit court will appoint someone to administer the estate They will take an oath to perform their duties faithfully and, in some cases, may need to give the court a surety bond.
A loved one dying intestate can pose challenges for those of you left behind. However, Virginia has a detailed set of guidelines that can make your experience smoother. You should get legal help if this is your case to understand the steps to take.