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Legal Blog - Law Offices of Richard Palumbo

Monday, January 21, 2019

Rhode Island Intestacy Laws: When You Die Without a Will

If you die without having a valid will in place, this is referred to is dying intestate. Instead of having your wishes as to how you want your estate divided amongst your loved ones, your assets will be distributed according to state intestacy laws. Unfortunately, many people neglect to or put off the estate planning process and never create a will. This leaves there accumulated wealth and treasured possessions at the mercy of state intestacy laws.

What Happens to Your Estate When Die Without a Will?

When you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to state intestacy laws. It is important to note however, that the intestacy laws may not apply to all of your assets. Only assets that would have passed by your will and through probate will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. Assets that would have passed outside of your will include:

  • Living trust: The assets contained in the living trust will pass according to the terms of the trust to the named beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance: The proceeds of a life insurance policy will pass to the named beneficiary.
  • Payable or Transferable on death accounts: These types of accounts, usually financial accounts such as a bank or brokerage account, will pass to the listed individual(s).
  • Jointly owned property: Any property you hold in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety will pass to the co-owner.

For assets that would have passed according to the terms of your will, the state laws of intestate succession will apply. In Rhode Island this means:

  • If you die with surviving children, but no surviving spouse, your children will inherit everything.
  • If you die with a surviving spouse, but no surviving children, your spouse will inherit up to $75,000 of your real estate and the right to use your real estate for the rest of his or her life. This means that, while he or she will have the right to use the real estate, he or she will not have the right to sell or give it away. Your surviving spouse will also inherit $50,000 of your intestate personal property and half of the balance.
  • If you die with a surviving spouse and children, your spouse will inherit your real estate for life and half of your personal property. Your children will inherit everything remaining.
  • If you die with surviving parents, but no spouse or children, your parents will inherit everything.

The intestate laws will work along your family tree until a surviving relative is found to inherit your assets, but this is not without limits. The intestate laws reach out to include some pretty distant relatives. At a certain point, however, if no surviving relative can be found to inherit your property, it will pass, or “escheat” to the State of Rhode Island.

Protecting the Future of Your Loved Ones Through Dedicated Estate Planning

Get control of where your legacy will pass after you are gone. Put an estate plan in place now that will distribute your assets according to your wishes and not the default laws of the state. The Law Offices of Richard Palumbo, LLC are here to ensure that your estate passes to your loved ones the way you want it to. Contact the Law Offices of Richard Palumbo, LLC today.


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The Law Offices of Richard Palumbo, LLC assists clients with Real Estate Law, Business Law, Probate, Evictions for Landlords and Property Damage matters in Rhode Island including Cranston, Warwick, Coventry, Johnston, Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and all areas throughout RI.



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