Dying without a will is referred to as dying “intestate.” In the event that you die without have a valid will that instructs how your probate assets are distributed, the law requires that your estate be distributed according to the rules of “intestate succession.” In Indiana, these rules generally require that your probate estate be distributed as follows, depending upon your marital and family status:
Unmarried, no children.
• Everything to your parents and siblings.
• If you do not have living parents or living siblings, then everything to your nieces and nephews.
• If there are no living nieces and nephews, then everything to your grandparents.
• If there are no living grandparents, then everything to your aunts and uncles.
• If there are no living aunts or uncles, then everything to the State of Indiana.
Married, no children or grandchildren.
• Three-fourths (3/4) to your surviving spouse and one-fourth (1/4) to your surviving parent or parents.
• If there is no surviving parent, then everything to your surviving spouse.
Married, with children (or grandchildren).
• One-half (1/2) to your surviving spouse and one-half (1/2) to your children (and grandchildren, in some cases).
Married to second or subsequent spouse, with children from prior spouse, but no children from subsequent spouse.
• Your surviving spouse receives the equivalent of 25% of the fair market value of your real estate, minus the value of any liens or mortgages against the real estate.
Bear in mind, these are general rules and far from a complete schedule of rules of intestacy. Furthermore, there are other rules that may affect the ultimate distribution of your probate assets, such as rules concerning personal property and family allowances.
The rules of intestacy are designed by the Indiana General Assembly as a “best guess” of how you would have wanted your probate assets distributed. Because there is no will that sets out how you would have actually wished the assets distributed, the legislature has decided for you.
Making a will gives you the opportunity to dictate how your estate is administered and distributed upon your death.