If a person dies without a will, their assets pass through “intestate succession.” Intestate succession is set out by statute and provides an outline for who inherits from a decedent’s estate when there is no will.
In Oregon, if someone dies without a will, the State looks at their family tree to determine how to divide their assets. If certain branches of the family tree are not present (or no longer alive), then the State works through the family tree systematically until it can find who should inherit.
If a married person dies and their spouse survives, the spouse inherits their estate if the decedent either had no children or only had children with their spouse. If the decedent had children from another relationship, then their spouse would inherit 50% of their estate and the children from the other relationships would inherit the remaining 50%. See ORS 112.025 and ORS 112.035.
If there is not a surviving spouse, ORS 112.045 lays out the family tree order that the state looks at to determine who should inherit, which is outlined as:
- To the issue of the decedent.
- To the surviving parents.
- To the siblings of the decedent and/or their issue by right of representation.
- To decedent’s grandparents and/or their issue (decedent’s aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) by right of representation.
- If no one can be found to inherit, the decedent’s property “escheats” to the State of Oregon.
Because family trees can often be complicated, there are statutory provisions to address family members who may be related through two lines in the family tree, family members who are only “half-blood” members, afterborn heirs, and even the forfeiture of a parent’s share if they deserted or abandoned the decedent. If your loved one has passed away without a will in place, consulting with an attorney who handles probate matters can help you navigate the intestacy laws to make sure that the right people are inheriting and that the laws are being followed.