Passing away without a will is known as dying intestate. Intestacy laws govern what happens to someone’s assets when they pass away without a will. These laws are set at the state level and the regulations differ between each state.

Probate courts administer intestacy laws and divide up the estate assets based on your relationship with the deceased. The probate court will only distribute assets that would have passed through a will.

What type of assets pass through probate?

Generally only assets that the deceased had in their own name will be passed on. The court may not allocate jointly-owned property or assets. Some assets that could pass through probate court include:

  • Checking accounts or cash
  • Any valuable items (e.g., antiques, jewelry)
  • Real estate property in the deceased’s name

At this time, the probate court will also pass down property that can have a beneficiary listed but does not.

Dividing the estate

If there is a surviving spouse and they had a child together, the spouse will receive the first $150,000 from the intestate estate and half of the residual estate balance. The other half will go to the remaining descendants.

If there is no surviving spouse, then the children will inherit the entire estate. Even if the siblings or parents of the deceased are still alive.

If your father does not have a valid will in place, speaking with an attorney may help. They will be able to discuss how your father wants to distribute his belongings and draft a will based on his wishes.