The Edmond Sun

May 10, 2013

ASK A LAWYER: Determining inheritance from mysterious great-uncles

By Matt Hopkins
Special to The Sun

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

Many people at some point in their lives will wonder whether they’re entitled to part of an estate of a recently deceased great-uncle or aunt who was single with no children. It is a perfectly natural question that eventually occurs to most of us. At least those of us fortunate enough to outlive a miserly great-uncle who lived like a pauper and hoarded all of his pennies into millions of dollars. Not that we’re glad he’s gone. We miss him terribly. But, as nothing can be done about that, we might as well have a go at his stuff. It’s just that we’re afraid to ask the question out loud.

If dear Great-Uncle Henry truly had no children — and chances are you didn’t know him well enough to be certain about this — then you may, in fact, soon be driving a new Corvette. But don’t get too excited. Even if Henry had cans full of cash, you may not be alone. Others may be thinking the same thing you are thinking. You might take a look at a used pickup too. Or a bicycle.

In recent articles we have explained distribution of estates with no wills. We have attempted to provide some guidance in situations where the decedent left a surviving spouse. So, now we will divide the pot for poor Henry, who left no will, no spouse and no children (that we know of).

If Great-Uncle Henry’s parents are alive — and that would be a miracle — his estate will go to them and you are still poor. But if his parents predeceased him, his estate will be divided equally among his siblings. If one of his sisters is deceased, her share will be divided equally among her children and their descendants. But if his deceased sister had no children, her share will go back to her own siblings to be divided down their lines of succession.

This is where you may be in trouble. If Great-Uncle Henry was one of nine children, and each of them implemented similar family planning, a slightly used Schwinn is coming your way. But, if Henry’s only sibling was your grandmother, and your grandmother’s only child was your father, and your father’s only child is you, and you are the sole survivor of the entire clan, then Corvette it is.

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