What Happens if I Die in Rhode Island Without a Will?

No one likes to think about dying. It can be an extremely scary and uncomfortable discussion, not to mention it makes us face the reality of our own mortality – something we generally prefer not to do. But while the discussion may prove very uncomfortable for you, the effects of dying in Rhode Island without a will can be downright painful for those that you leave behind.

Rhode Island Intestate Laws

When someone dies without a Rhode Island will, they have died “intestate.” When someone dies intestate, their state’s laws govern their estate. The Rhode Island General Laws, Chapter 33-1 are the laws that govern when someone dies intestate. 

One of the reasons as to why it is highly recommended that you draft a will is that not only are intestate laws often very complicated, but they also generally don’t satisfy the wishes of the deceased. The way in which the deceased’s property is distributed after their passing is dependent upon whether or not they have a spouse, children, or grandchildren. 

How is the Estate Distributed?

Intestate laws firstly look out for the interest of the widow/er and the children. The spouse and children’s interests are prioritized over all else. However, if someone passes without a spouse or children, parents and siblings may be next to inherit the entire estate. 

In other words, under Rhode Island’s intestate laws, if an individual dies with a spouse but without any children, the spouse will not actually inherit the whole estate. The spouse is entitled to use the real estate of the decedent (the deceased) for the remainder of their life and will also received up to $75,000 worth of their real estate. The spouse will also receive $50,000 of the decedent’s personal property and then 50% of the remaining balance. 

However, if an individual dies with both a spouse and children or grandchildren, the spouse will inherit a life estate for the decedent’s property and half of their personal property. The remainder of the property goes to the decedent’s children and/or grandchildren. But if someone dies without a spouse, children, or grandchildren, their parents will inherit the entire estate. If their parents have pre-deceased the decedent, then the entire estate passes to their siblings equally. 

Drafting a Will to Carry Out Your Wishes

By dying intestate and leaving one’s estate to the Rhode Island intestate laws for distribution, much of the estate can end up being lost through unnecessary legal and administrative fees. The drafting of a will serves to prevent these laws from taking effect and ensures that your wishes are in fact carried out. 

What Can You Do?

It is highly recommended that when you draft a will you seek a knowledgeable and experienced estate-planning attorney to ensure that you do so correctly in order for your wishes to be properly carried out. If you are in need of a new will or if you wish to update your will, PALUMBO LAW can help. To learn more about how we can help, call 401-490-0994.