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My husband passed away, he didn't have a will. I'm the beneficiary, and have one son. Who gets what?

Lincoln, AL |
Attorney answers 3


If your husband passed away without a will, then any property that was owned solely by him when he passed away would become part of his "probate estate" and would be distributed to your state's statutory intestacy scheme (a statute that provides for who gets what when someone passes away without a will).

You mention that you were married and had a house, cars, land, farm and bank accounts. Some or all of these assets may pass outside the "probate estate" because of how they were owned (presumably with you as joint owner, perhaps with right of survivorship). If you owned some or all of these assets with your husband as joint owner with right of survivorship, then those assets which are titled as such will become yours, regardless of what your state statute provides. However, if your husband owned some or all of those assets jointly with you (or someone else) without right of survivorship, then a portion of that asset would belong in his "probate estate." Additionally, as mentioned previously, if your husband owned any assets individually (without any other name on it/them), then those assets would be part of his "probate estate."

In order to determine more specific information regarding the property and how it will be distributed, you should contact an estate planning and probate attorney in your area to review the assets owned and discuss the state law as it specifically applies to you.


I’m an attorney practicing in Alabama so this answer will assume that your husband was a resident of Alabama at the time of his death. Since your husband died without a will, his estate is referred to as an “intestate” estate. As a result, his probate estate will pass according to the laws of intestacy as set out by the Alabama legislature.

This answer assumes that your husband only had the one son who is also your son. Under that fact scenario, you would receive 100% of the first $50,000 of your husband’s net probate estate (estate after expenses and debts). Any value over that amount must be split equally between you and your son.

This answer comes as a surprise to most people. However, this law only applies to assets that are considered probate assets and subject to probate. In other words, nonprobate assets do not count to toward the $50,000 amount discussed above.

Your house, car, and certain bank accounts may be nonprobate assets if they are owned jointly with you. It will depend on how they are titled. Other assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, usually pass according to their beneficiary designation. If all of your husband’s assets turn out to be nonprobate assets, then there may not even be a reason to probate his estate.

However, I must advise you to see an attorney who practices in trusts and estates to review everything he owned so that there is no question about how the assets are titled and whether they are probate or nonprobate assets. Thank you for your question.

Thad A. Davis is an Alabama attorney. As such, his responses on this site are limited to his understanding of the facts as cited in the posted question and his understanding of the law in his state. No answer should be considered legal advice, nor does an answer create an attorney-client relationship. Anyone desiring specific legal advice should consult an attorney in the relevant state.


The state of Alabama deteremines where your husband's property goes if he did not have a will. This law will split his estate between you and his children. Any accounts or real estate that were jointly owned with survivorship are yours, however, and not part of his estate.

Ay property owned by your husband, in his name aone, will make up his probate estate that will be split betwwen you and his children.

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