Folks often ask what happens when someone dies without a will? The legal term for this is dying “intestate.” Usually, this question comes from a concerned family member or friend who recently had a loved one pass away without a will. Maybe they want to help resolve the descendant’s affairs, but they’re worried other family members will try to turn the probate process into a “free for all.” We recommend every adult have their own will to ensure their property passes how they want, however, even without a will, Washington state law will provide for your property to pass to your next of kin.

Washington State has laws that address this situation. Of course, this is no reason to put off getting your will done since your wishes may not align with the state’s cookie cutter laws. The statute that addresses the distribution of assets when someone dies intestate is Revised Code of Washington 11.04.015. Generally, it states that the decedent’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 above situations, where deceased’s parents, siblings and/or direct descendants, are still alive, each person in those respective groups will split the allotted portion of the estate equally among themselves.

In the event your loved one does not have a surviving spouse, the Washington State’s intestate succession guidelines require the estate be administered in the following order: descendants, parents, siblings, grandparents and next of kin.

Your estate plan shouldn’t be left to the government’s guidelines. If your friend or loved one has passed away without a will and you need help with the probate process or if you’re ready to draft your first will or even re-write a prior will, feel free to connect with us today. Cooney Law Offices. We can help!