When a family member dies without a will, it is important to apply the intestacy laws. Intestacy law oversees and governs the division the property he/she has left behind. Therefore it is correct to say that a person who dies without leaving behind the will of distribution of his/her property the deceased died intestate. Therefore in order to fairly divide the left behind property, intestate law is applied which indicates the hierarchy of people who should inherit the property. The intestate lists and the people who are entitled to inherit the property and at the same time defines how these people are related to the deceased. During the division of the property, two tools are used to divide the property which includes per stripe and per capita. These tools are necessary when the number of people entitled to inheritance is huge. Below is how the hierarchy is followed.
On top of the hierarchy is the spouse who is entitled to inherit an estate that is left behind by the deceased. A spouse can get a piece of estate or inherit the whole estate depending on whether the deceased left behind children. When there is no child in question, the estate of the deceased is entirely inherited by the spouse. Intestate law clearly defines that the legitimate spouse is the one who wed with the deceased and has a certificate of marriage. Some parts of the world recognize common law marriage as legal.
Children follow the spouse on the hierarchy of the intestate law. In cases where there is no existing spouse, the estate is subdivided equally to all children. In case there is a spouse, the rules changes. Depending on the size of the estate, a spouse is given a certain percentage of the estate and the remaining percentage distributed equally to all the children. It should be noted clearly that if the deceased had only adopted children, the property is equally divided among them because adopted children are taken as biological children. The assets inherited by the children of the deceased can never be used to settle the debts of the deceased because children do not inherit their parent’s debts. It is the responsibility of the probate court to select the guardian who will take care of the children of the deceased.
Parents and siblings of the deceased are third on the intestate hierarchy. In case there is no recognized spouse, children or grandchildren, parents, and sibling are considered to be suitable property inheritors. On this level of the hierarchy, parents are given the first priority and if the parents are not around, siblings are then picked to be inheritors.
However, if the above people are absent, then distant relatives are considered the right inheritors. Distant relatives include cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles who may share the property equally among themselves.