In the state of Pennsylvania, the rules of inheritance can be complex and can depend on a variety of factors, such as whether or not you have a valid will in place, the nature of your assets, and the relationships of your surviving family members. However, it is not accurate to say that a spouse will inherit everything when you die in Pennsylvania.
If you die without a valid will, your assets will be distributed according to Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. Under these laws, your surviving spouse will receive a portion of your assets, but not necessarily everything. The exact amount that your spouse will receive depends on whether or not you have surviving children, parents, or other close relatives. If you do not have any surviving children or parents, then your spouse will inherit all of your assets. However, if you do have surviving children or parents, then your spouse will only inherit a portion of your assets, with the remaining assets going to your other relatives.
If you have a valid will in place, you can specify exactly how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. In your will, you can leave specific assets to your spouse, as well as designate them as the executor of your estate. However, it is important to note that even with a will, your surviving spouse may not necessarily inherit everything. For example, if you have joint bank accounts or real estate holdings with someone other than your spouse, those assets may pass directly to the joint owner, regardless of what your will says.
It is also worth noting that Pennsylvania has a process called elective share, which can further affect how your assets are distributed after your death. Under this process, if your surviving spouse is not satisfied with the amount of assets they received under your will or intestacy laws, they can choose to take an elective share instead. This share is equal to one-third of the value of your augmented estate, which includes not only your probate assets but also other assets such as joint bank accounts and certain types of trusts.
In conclusion, while it is a common misconception that a spouse will inherit everything when you die in Pennsylvania, the actual rules of inheritance are more complex and depend on a variety of factors.
Who inherits an estate when there is no will in PA?
When a person dies without a valid will in Pennsylvania, they are said to have died “intestate.” In such cases, the deceased’s assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy in Pennsylvania.
The rules of intestacy in Pennsylvania provide for a hierarchy of heirs who are entitled to inherit the deceased’s assets, depending on their relationship to the deceased. Generally, the surviving spouse and children of the deceased are given priority in the distribution of the assets. If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the assets will pass to other relatives, such as parents, siblings, or more distant relatives, in a predetermined order of priority.
Here is a general overview of the rules of intestacy in Pennsylvania:
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse but no children, parents, or siblings, then the spouse inherits the entire estate.
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse and children, then the spouse receives the first $30,000 of the estate, plus one-half of the balance, and the children receive the remaining half of the balance.
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse and parents, but no children or siblings, then the spouse receives the first $30,000 of the estate, plus one-half of the balance, and the parents receive the remaining half of the balance.
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse, children, and parents, then the spouse receives the first $30,000 of the estate, plus one-half of the balance, and the children and parents share the remaining half of the balance equally.
- If the deceased is survived by children but no spouse, then the children inherit the entire estate in equal shares.
- If the deceased is survived by parents but no spouse or children, then the parents inherit the entire estate in equal shares.
- If the deceased is survived by siblings but no spouse, children, or parents, then the siblings inherit the entire estate in equal shares.
- If there are no surviving heirs who can be located, or if the deceased’s estate has no heirs under Pennsylvania law, then the estate will “escheat” to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
It is important to note that the rules of intestacy can be complex, and the distribution of assets may not always be straightforward. Additionally, the intestacy laws in Pennsylvania do not take into account the specific needs or desires of the deceased or their family members. Therefore, it is generally advisable to create a will or other estate planning documents to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
Is Pennsylvania a right of survivorship state?
Yes, Pennsylvania is a right of survivorship state. This means that when two or more people own property together with right of survivorship, the surviving owner automatically inherits the deceased owner’s share of the property upon their death, without the need for probate.
For example, if a married couple owns a house jointly with right of survivorship, and one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will automatically inherit the deceased spouse’s share of the house, without the need for probate or other legal proceedings. Similarly, if two friends or business partners own a bank account jointly with right of survivorship, and one owner dies, the surviving owner will automatically inherit the deceased owner’s share of the account.
In Pennsylvania, right of survivorship can be established by including specific language in the ownership document or title, such as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” or “tenants by the entirety.” However, it is important to note that establishing right of survivorship can have significant legal and tax implications, and it is advisable to consult with an attorney or other qualified professional before creating or modifying joint ownership arrangements.
It is also worth noting that while right of survivorship can be a useful estate planning tool, it is not a substitute for a comprehensive estate plan that includes a will, power of attorney, and other relevant documents.
If you need help planning your Will or Estate Planning, contact PA Estate Planning Attorney Kenneth Russell at Russell Law.