What Happens If A Person Dies Without A Will?

Continuing our look at the specific estate and probate planning articles available on the website, today we will discuss the Intestacy provisions in Nebraska.

First, intestacy is the legal term for when a person, hereafter called a decedent, dies without a will.  Intestacy may be complete or partial; some property may transfer, such as property owned in joint tenancy or a bank account with a named beneficiary.

The rules of intestacy are mostly established by statutes enacted by the state legislature.  Those rules, which determine who will receive the property of the decedent, depend upon the degree of the relationship (e.g. child, sibling, parent) with the decedent.

Let’s look at some scenarios and possible outcomes:

Surviving Spouse:

If there are no living issue of the decedent and if there are no living parents of the decedent, the surviving spouse takes everything.

However, if there is a surviving parent(s) or surviving issue, the surviving spouse takes the first $100,000 and half the remainder of the estate.

Alternatively, if there are surviving issue and at least one of the surviving issue is not the issue of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse takes only half of the estate, without taking $100,000 off the top.

Other Heirs:

If there are issue of the decedent, they take first, equally by representation.  This means if the issue are the same degree of kinship (for example, all children of the decedent), they take equally.  If the issue are different degrees of kinship, they take by representation.  In other words, if there are two surviving children and one predeceased child who had three children of his own, the two surviving children would each receive one-third and the three grandchildren would each receive one-ninth (the predeceased child’s one-third share divided equally among his three children).

If there are no surviving issue, the decedent’s estate goes to the decedent’s parents equally.

If there are no surviving issue or parents, the decedent’s estate goes to the issue of the parents by representation (e.g. brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews etc.).

If there are no surviving issue, parent(s), or issue of parent(s), half the estate goes to paternal grandparents or their issue and half to the maternal grandparents and their issue.  If one side has no relatives (i.e. no grandparents or issue of grandparents) then all of the estate goes to the other side.  The issue of grandparents take equally if they are the same degree of kinship or by representation otherwise.  For example, if the next of kin are an aunt and the children of a predeceased uncle, the aunt would take one-half of the estate and the children of the predeceased uncle would each receive one-quarter of the estate.

Beyond this point, we get into the concept of laughing heirs and if no such laughing heirs exist, the estate transfers to the state.

If you have any further questions, about how to avoid an intestate situation or the probate process in general, please contact us — we’re happy to answer questions!


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