The Edmond Sun


April 12, 2013

ASK A LAWYER: What happens when there is no will

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.

Q: Who inherits my property if I die without a will?

Some property passes without court proceedings or application of laws of succession. For example, property you own in joint tenancy will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner upon your death. Financial accounts that are payable on death to a survivor will pass to that person automatically.

But what about assets you own in your name alone? They likely will require a judicial administration to pass to your survivors. Absent a will or an antenuptial agreement, the laws of intestacy succession determine who gets your stuff. The rules are well settled, but a little complicated. Today we will address only decedents who are survived by spouses, and save other situations for another article.

Like many people, you may assume that your entire estate will pass to your spouse when you die. This is true only if your spouse is your only close survivor. If you also are survived by any issue (children and their issue), parent, or sibling, your estate will be split. If all of your surviving issue are also the issue of your spouse, your spouse will get an undivided one-half of your estate, and the balance will be divided equally among your surviving children. Any deceased child's share will go to his surviving issue, if any.

If any one of your surviving issue is not also the issue of your spouse, then your spouse will get an undivided one-half of the property you jointly acquired during marriage. The rest will be divided equally between your spouse and each of your surviving issue.

If you die without issue, but are survived by a spouse and any parent or sibling, your spouse will receive all property you jointly acquired during marriage, and one-third of the rest of your estate. The balance will pass equally to your living parents. If your parents are deceased, their share will be divided among their children and subsequent issue.

Most other contingencies are covered, ensuring that your stuff always has somewhere to go when you die. Even relatives you have never heard of can get a cut. If you find this prospect disorganized or alarming, it is easily remedied. Prepare and execute a simple will and your stuff will go wherever you want. Even the family dog can step in front of your Great-aunt Sally’s grandson and Cousin Bill who you never liked for his share of the estate.

MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at Send questions to


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