Who inherits your estate if you don’t have a will?

| Dec 14, 2020 | estate planning

If you die in Washington without having first made a will, Washington law determines who inherits what portion of your estate. Called intestacy, Sections 11.02.070 and 11.04.250 of the Revised Washington Code distributes your estate by law, regardless of what your intentions may have been. 

As you probably know, Washington is a community property state, meaning that, with few exceptions, everything you and your spouse or registered domestic partner accumulated during your marriage or partnership belongs to each of you equally. Therefore, your estate represents your half of the community property plus any separate property you own at the time of your death. 

Surviving spouse or registered partner scenarios

Inheritance proceeds as follows if you have a surviving spouse or registered partner at the time of your intestate death: 

  • He or she inherits all of your share of the net community property. 
  • He or she also inherits half of your separate estate if you have surviving children. 
  • He or she inherits 75% of your separate estate if you have no surviving children, but one or both of your parents survive you. 
  • He or she inherits all of your separate estate if you have no surviving children or parents. 

No surviving spouse or registered partner scenarios

Should you have no surviving spouse or registered partner at the time of your intestate death, inheritance proceeds as follows: 

  • Your children inherit your entire estate. 
  • Your surviving parent or parents inherit your entire estate if you have no surviving children. 
  • Your surviving siblings inherit your entire estate if you have no surviving children or parents. 
  • Your surviving grandparent or grandparents inherit your entire estate if you have no surviving children, parents or siblings. 

Washington intestacy law likewise makes inheritance distributions to your more remote relatives if the need arises.