If a person passes away without making a will, this person (the decedent) is said to have died intestate. The property will be distributed according to the state's intestacy laws.
In Washington state, RCW 11.04.015 deals with the distribution of real and personal property when a person dies intestate. According to the statute, the decedent's surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner receives the community property. The statute outlines how much of the decedent's separate property the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner receives. This is based on whether the decedent is survived by issue (children or grandchildren), parent, or parents.
If no surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner exists, or for shares from the estate that are not distributable to the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, the shares are distributed to the decedent's issue. If there is no issue, then to the decedent's parent or parents. If the decedent has no surviving parent or parents, then to the issue of parents. If there is no issue of parents, then to the decedent's grandparent or grandparents. If the decedent has no living grandparent or grandparents, then to the issue of the grandparent or grandparents.
As the above shows, if a person dies without making a will, the property, whether personal or real, will not automatically escheat to the state.
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Ruth A. Harper
I'm a Pacific Northwest attorney, and my focus is on estate planning and elder law. My interest in these fields grew out of my experience with aging relatives and family members with special needs.
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