Aside from the emotional burden of losing your spouse, his or her estate may be difficult to manage. This is especially the case if your spouse never made a will.
Intestacy, or death without a will, must go to probate court. Any value that you shared with your spouse before his or her death will likely lead to some deductions. From there, the court will assess two different types of property and determine how they should be distributed.
Your spouse’s real property consists of all immovable assets. This includes land, buildings, ponds, fences and crops. If your spouse does not have any parents or lineal descendants, you should get all of his or her real property. If there are surviving descendants or parents in the fold, you may get a half or a third of the property. Distribution will depend on how many people there are and how they relate to your spouse.
Any movable assets are personal property. Your spouse’s collectibles, furniture and cars all fall under this category. Like with real property, you will get all of your spouse’s personal property if he or she has no surviving lineal descendants or parents. Otherwise, you should still get all of your spouse’s personal property if the value is under a certain limit ($60,000 if there are children, and $100,000 if there are parents but no children). If the property goes above the respective limit, you will get a fraction equal to the limit and some of the balance.
Intestacy is rarely a cut-and-dry case. There are many factors to consider when distributing money without a will. However, understanding different probate conditions should help smoothen the process for you.