Death is not something that people like to think about, which is why many people in the U.S. die without leaving behind a last will and testament. When people die without a will, they are classified as having died intestate. Whenever that happens, the assets and property of the deceased are distributed according to the intestacy laws of the state in which they reside in.
The intestate law will govern what happens to the physical property, bank accounts, securities, and any other assets that you own.
Various other factors will be taken into consideration while reviewing a decedent’s property under the intestacy laws and distributing property in shares that are split equally amongst the decedent’s heirs.
Factors that are included in the process are whether or not the decedent was married or had children.
The beneficiaries can include:
- a spouse
- uncles and aunts
- nephews and nieces
- distant relatives
In Pennsylvania if the person did not have any surviving relatives, then their property escheats to the Commonwealth.
Other types of Estate administration proceedings in Pennsylvania include settlement of small estate and ancillary administration. When a Pennsylvania decedent’s dies owning property (exclusive of real estate and certain payments to family and funeral directors) that does not exceed $50,000, beneficiaries may be able to collect the estate’s personal property assets without a full probate proceeding by filing a petition for a small estate administration.
When an individual (not domiciled in Pennsylvania) dies owning property in Pennsylvania that does not pass by title or operation of law, the estate fiduciary in the state where the decedent lived may be required to open an additional estate proceeding in Pennsylvania, called an ancillary proceeding.
For proper estate administration after a person dies, it is crucial to hire an experienced estate attorney who can guide you through the probate process. An estate planning attorney can also ensure that your property will go to its rightful heirs after you pass on.