No will, no close family

No will, no close family

My first cousin passed away. he also has a half surviving aunt on his mothers side. No will. No children. No one else alive except another cousin. He lived in State X. Who shares what?


Your cousin died without a will, which is called "intestate". State law of the state in which he was domiciled will govern what happens to most or all of his property. You have to get the statute (law) for that state and see what that state law provides for who should inherit when someone dies without a will. The law will contain a listing of relationships of people and how they share in the estate.

A critical issue is also whether assets of your cousin had beneficiary designations, or co-owners. For example, if he had an IRA that listed a specific person as beneficiary, or had a bank or brokerage account titled "ITF" (in trust for) or POD (pay on death), those assets would go to the persons named and the existence, or lack of a will, or state intestacy laws, may have no impact on those assets.

If the people who will receive assets under your cousin's intestacy don't want those assets, or are not the people that should receive them, they may, if they choose to do so and act quickly enough, can renounce or disclaim those assets. This requires a formal filing with the court stating that they refuse the assets received under intestacy. This technique can be used to shift assets to others if all agree.

If your cousin owned real estate or tangible property (e.g., art) in another state, that other state's laws may govern the disposition of those assets, not the law of the state in which he resided.

You can probably find your state laws on intestacy on line or at your local library to see general what happens. However, the best place to start is a good probate lawyer in which your cousin was domiciled is the best starting point.

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