What happens if my husband dies and we have no will?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband and I have no wills at 58 years old and have everything we own paid off, what happens if he should die and we have no will?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

If a person dies without a will, what happens to his or her property depends on how title to it is held, whether there are any other types of controls in place about who should get that property"”and the state law in which the person lived.

For example, some forms of jointly-owned property go directly to the surviving owners at death. And some types of property and benefits"”insurance proceeds are a common example"”go directly to a named beneficiary.

Beyond that, though, when a person dies without a will"”or "intestate ”his or her debts are paid off and property is passed on or divided according to a hierarchy set out in state law. Generally, these laws, called "intestate succession laws" divvy up the property among close relations such as a spouse and children. Sometimes this approximates what a person would have wanted to happen, anyway. Sometimes, however, there are surprises that no one would want or anticipate.

To find out the distribution scheme your state would impose, do an Internet search of your state name and "intestate succession." Make sure then that you see the letter of the law rather than an individual site that may be promoting legal services if they're not of interest to you.

For additional information on dying with and without a will, see Caring.com's resources at www.caring.com/estate-planning.

Community Answers

Hunter02love answered...

What happens when your parents had a living trust and then they move and now live somewhere else and the house they had listed is no longer theirs. Also the attorney is not longer around to get a holt of to change their living trust what should they do.

Caring community answered...


Thank you very much for your question. You might want to take a look through our Ask & Answer section about living trust here.

You can also ask one of our experts by started a new Ask & Answer by going here and asking your question.

Hope this helps!

Take care, Jeff | Caring.com Community Team