What is Intestate Succession in Pennsylvania?

Many people in their life choose to write a will. This allows them to have a plan for what happens when their life is over. A will ensures the deceased’s precious assets end up in the right hands. However, there are situations in which a deceased person does not have a will. When this happens, the individual is known as dying “intestate.” If a person dies without a will in the state of Pennsylvania, their assets are distributed based upon intestate succession laws.

What Assets Pass by Intestate Succession?

It is important to know that only assets that would have passed through a will can be affected by intestate succession laws. This generally includes assets that are in the deceased’s own name. However, there are some assets that are not affected by intestate succession laws. This can include the following:

  • Property that was transferred to a living trust
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirements accounts
  • Securities that are held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Property that is owned with another person in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety

These assets are not subject to intestate succession laws but will be passed to the individual’s surviving co-owner or to a beneficiary, regardless of if there is a will available.

What is the Intestate Succession Schedule in Pennsylvania?

Intestate succession decides which individuals receive what assets depending on the deceased’s surviving relatives. This includes children, parents, and other close relatives. The intestate succession schedule in Pennsylvania is as follows:

  • If a person dies with children but no spouse, the children inherit everything
  • If a person dies with a spouse but no descendants or parents, the spouse inherits everything
  • If a person dies with a spouse and descendants from them and that spouse, the spouse inherits the first $30,000 of the intestate property and half of the balance. The descendants then inherit everything else.
  • If a person dies with a spouse and descendants from them and someone other than that spouse, the spouse inherits half of the intestate property. The descendants inherit everything else.
  • If a person dies with a spouse and parents, the spouse inherits the first $30,000 of the intestate property and half of the balance. The parents then inherit the remaining intestate property.
  • If a person dies with parents but no spouse or descendants, the parents inherit everything
  • If a person dies with siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, the siblings inherit everything

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