A common question we here at Cooney Law Offices, P.S. often hear is what happens if a person dies without a will? It is typically coming from concerned family members in Spokane who have recently had loved ones pass away and are now worried that the dispersal of their estates will turn into a veritable “free-for-all” between the decedent’s beneficiaries. If you share these same concerns, no to worry; your family member or friend dying without a will does not mean that their estate is open to be claimed by whoever seeks it first.

Rather, the state anticipates that many will die without a will (given that less than half of American adults are likely to have one). It has therefore created guidelines that detail how assets are to be administered if your loved one dies intestate (without a will). These can be found in Section 11.04.015 of Washington’s Revised Code. Here, it states that your family member’s surviving spouse is entitled to the following proportions of their estate:

  • 100 percent if the decedent has no surviving descendants, parents or siblings
  • 75 percent if the decedent is survived by their parents or siblings
  • 50 percent if the decedent is survived by direct descendants

In the aforementioned cases where descendants, parents or siblings have survived the decedent, each in those respective groups will split the remaining amount of the estate among themselves equally.

In the event your loved one is not survived by a spouse, the state’s intestate succession guidelines mandate that the estate be administered in the following order: descendants, parents, siblings, grandparents and next of kin. More information on dealing with estate administration can be found throughout our site.