Thompson Law Group, P.C.

How much does a surviving spouse get if there is no will?


Pennsylvania residents will often be encouraged to prepare for the future by taking part in comprehensive estate planning. This is to make certain their loved ones are cared for, there is adequate asset protection and there are no problems after their death. However, some will still avoid the issue. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps it is an unwillingness to acknowledge the inevitable end of life. Or, they might be under the impression that they do not have significant assets to make an estate plan with a will or trusts.

People are frequently stunned when their assets are calculated and its value is significantly higher than they thought. Even if it is not of great value, it is still imperative to prepare and have an estate plan. Those who do not have a will or other estate planning document will be classified as having died "intestate." Knowing how this impacts a surviving spouse is important when deciding whether to have an estate plan or not.

The surviving spouse will get a certain share if the person died intestate. When there is no surviving children or the parent of the decedent has died, the surviving spouse gets the entire estate. When there are no surviving children, but a parent or parents are alive, the initial $30,000 plus half the balance of the estate goes to them. This does not apply if someone was killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks, as a surviving spouse gets the total amount of a compensation award. When there are surviving children and the other parent is the surviving spouse, the initial $30,000 plus one-half the balance goes to them.

Many times, a person who is thinking about the importance of a will or other estate planning device and leaning toward not having one does not understand how the law will deal with their surviving spouse should they die intestate. This can be problematic for that spouse and it probably is not something that the decedent would have wanted. Understanding how estate plans will provide for loved ones based on the law with or without an estate plan is crucial.

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