without leaving a will

What Happens When Virginians Pass On Without Leaving a Will?

Do you know what happens if you pass on without leaving a will? When you write a Last Will & Testament—or just a Will, for short—it is an expression of your desire for how the assets you leave behind should be disbursed and distributed, and makes explicit who you would like to take on the task of representing your estate. Naturally, both of these factors are strong reasons to make a plan. Unfortunately, people often put off this important matter. So you should know: if you pass on without leaving a Will, the state of Virginia steps in to manage things.

This is not to say that Virginia immediately seizes the property of those who die. Rather, if you die “intestate” (a legal term of art meaning “without having left a Will”), the state will refer to the laws on intestate succession to distribute your property (but only property that counts as “intestate property”). Virginia prioritizes family under a sort of “if this, then that” rubric, as such:

  • If you die with a spouse still living, but no children, then your spouse inherits everything.

  • If you die with no spouse but with children, then your children inherit everything in equal proportion.

    • If your spouse and children are dead, but you have living grandchildren, then they step into the place of your children for purposes of inheritance—and so on, down the line of descendants.

  • If you die with a spouse still living and descendants still living that are also descendants of that spouse (children, grandchildren, etc.), then your spouse gets everything.

  • If, however, you die with a spouse living and descendants living who are from someone other than that spouse, then your spouse inherits one third of your property and your descendants get everything else.

  • If you die without a spouse or descendants living, but one or more parents are still alive, then your parents inherit everything.

  • If you die with only siblings living (no spouse, no descendants, no parents), then your siblings inherit everything.

Don’t Risk Passing Without Leaving a Will – Contact Us Today

If you would prefer to have more say over how your property gets distributed when you die, or you are considering other ways to plan for the future, then we invite you to attend one of Promise Law’s free probate workshops. These workshops provide a great foundation of information that everyone needs to be able to make good estate planning decisions. Moreover, if you attend a workshop you also get a complimentary one-on-one consultation with one of our attorneys.


Join us for a workshop to learn more about how to address your legal needs.
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