Determining Next of Kin for Inheritance

Where do a person’s assets go if they die without a will? Without a legal document, such as a last will and testament, several processes are followed to determine the person’s next of kin – the people who will be the heirs.


If you don’t have a will, it’s important to know what will happen with your estate after you die. The best solution is to put together a will to avoid this process.


Closest Family Members are Next of Kin


The process of determining the next of kin varies from state to state. As a general rule of thumb, the next of kin are the closest family members to the deceased. These people are the first in line to inherit the estate. The state laws determine the next of kin and the inheritance order.


Next of kin relatives can include a variety of blood relations, such as:

· Children

· Parents

· Siblings

· Other Blood Relatives


Keep in mind that next of kin only includes blood relations, which means that a spouse doesn’t meet the criteria. But if a person dies without a will, then the surviving spouse is the first in line for the inheritance. The spouse might even receive the entire estate if there are no other surviving parents or children. If there isn’t a spouse, the state will move on to the other next of kin to determine the heirs.


Next of Kin Down the Bloodline


When there are no surviving close family members, then the state law typically moves down the bloodline to more distant relatives such as:

· Grandparents

· Grandchildren

· Uncles and Aunts

· Nephews and Nieces


Sometimes “great” generations or cousins can be heirs. It’s rare, but there are times when next of kin is not found. In this situation, the assets could end up in the state’s hands.


What if Next of Kin Is a Minor?


There are times when the next of kin is underage. In this situation, the probate court usually appoints a conservator who oversees the asset management until the child(ren) is old enough.


Need Help with Estate Planning?


If you have a will or estate plan in place, there is no reason to worry about how probate will manage next of kin. Instead, reach out to our team at Miles & Hatcher, LLP, to design a plan that matches your preferences for the way your estate will be handled after you are gone. Call anytime you are ready to book a free consultation: (909) 481-4080.

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