Unmarried man, no kids, both parents deceased; he inherits the estate ( cash, house, etc) At his passing, where do assets go

Asked over 5 years ago - Richmond, VA

Man is 48, no children, not married, both parents deceased. He has cousins and uncles, aunts. If he passes , where does balance of estate go. Does it go through probate , dispersed to nearest relatives, or state of Virginia.

Attorney answers (2)

  1. John Max Barger

    Contributor Level 11

    Answered . Hello. That is a good question. But the answer is not as cut and dry as you may think. There are a few variables that may affect the answer in this case. Questions that I would ask you include: how is each asset titled?; do you have designated beneficiaries on certain assets?; and do you have a last will and testament? Rest assured that the Commonwealth of Virginia will not "take" your estate if you have surviving heirs. Virginia has no estate tax and no inheritance tax.

    The most direct answer, and the one it seems that you may be alluding to in your question, assumes that you own all of your assets in your name solely (not as joint tenants or as tenants in common with another person), and you have not designated a beneficiary (such as on a life insurance policy, retirement plan or a POD beneficiary on a bank account) on any assets, and you do not have a last will and testament.

    Given these variables, upon your death, your assets would pass by the laws of intestacy under the Code of Virginia. This requires a probate of your assets. In Virginia, if you are not married, and have no children, you look to the rest of your family tree to find the closest blood relatives: first your parents, then your siblings. If there are none, then we look to your grandparents, then aunts and uncles, then cousins. It does get a little complicated, here.

    If, for example, you had one living grandparent on your mother's side, and on your father's side, there was one surviving brother of your father (your uncle) and one deceased sibling of your father with a surviving child (who would be your cousin), then your estate would be divided such that your grandparent would receive 50% of your estate, your father's surviving brother would receive 25%, and your cousin would receive 25% (the share of your father's deceased sibling).

    Now, if you have life insurance or a retirement plan, or an account with POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death) features, and you completed the beneficiary designations naming people (not your estate) as your beneficiaries, then those assets will avoid probate, and you can direct who receives them. For example, if you want your cousin's daughter to receive your entire retirement plan, you can indicate that on a beneficiary designation form.

    Naturally if you own assets as joint tenants with right of survivorship, then the surviving joint tenant takes the entire asset. If you own assets with another as tenants in common (or in Virginia if the title indicates simply "joint tenants" but does not say "with right of survivorship") then your portion of the asset passes to your heirs by the laws of intestacy. For example, if you own a beach house in Virginia Beach with a friend as tenants in common, his 1/2 will remain his, and your 1/2 will pass to your heirs. If your survivors are as indicated above, your friend becomes owner of the beach house with your grandparent, uncle and cousin!

    It is always a good idea to have an estate plan which includes a Will, a Power of Attorney and an Advance Medical Directive so that your affairs are in order and your intent is made clear to your survivors. You should ask an attorney who practices primarily in the area of estate planning to help you with your Will (and other documents).

    Although I am licensed in Virginia, and I practice law in Virginia, this information is of a general nature and is not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by the sharing of this information. If you would like to receive further information, I would be happy to speak with you. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

  2. Laurie Glandt Steiner

    Contributor Level 8

    Answered . The rightful heirs to the assets are set forth in the state's Probate statute, in Ohio called the Statute of Descent and Distribution. The statute will set forth the order in which the closest blood heirs would inherit. For example, in Ohio, the order is: Surviving spouse, children equally or other lineal descendants (grandkid's), parents equally, 1/2 to the heirs of each parent (siblings, then nieces/nephews), then if none, to parents' siblings or their children, and so on. If there are are absolutely no blood relatives, then the money would go to the state. You need to check the state of residence to verify the order of inheritance.

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