If you live in Rhode Island and don’t have a will in place when you die, most of your assets will probably be distributed according to Rhode Island’s intestacy laws. This could result in your loved ones fighting over your assets after you're gone.
To learn more about Rhode Island’s intestacy laws and what could happen to your assets if you die without a will in the Ocean State, keep reading.
What Is Intestacy Law?
While some people may think that their family will automatically inherit their property if they don't have a will, this is not always the case. If you die without a last will and testament in Rhode Island, your property will be distributed according to intestacy law. Intestacy law is the default system for distributing a person's property if they die without a will.
How Does Intestacy Law Work in Rhode Island?
Intestacy law determines how a decedent’s estate in Rhode Island will be distributed if the deceased did not create a valid last will and testament. In Rhode Island, certain surviving family members are entitled to receive the decedent’s assets:
- 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.
In addition, other individuals, such as grandparents or nieces/nephews may also have a claim to a decedent’s assets depending on the circumstances.
In some cases, the state will have to search extensively for family members to pass your assets on to, including reaching out to distant relatives you may have never known you had. However, if the state doesn’t find any relatives to inherit your assets, your property will be escheated by the state of Rhode Island. In other words, Rhode Island will inherit your assets.
How Do I Avoid Dying Intestate in Rhode Island?
It’s important to create a will in Rhode Island before it is too late. Having a will can provide you with peace of mind, as it allows you to determine who inherits your properties, debts, and belongings after you are gone.
Additionally, without a will, the court will divide up your assets according to state intestacy laws – leaving out any potential heirs who may not be acknowledged under those rules. Accordingly, having a valid and legally recognized will can help ensure that all your family members are taken care of after your passing and that things are settled in the manner that you deem appropriate.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Will Versus Dying Intestate in Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, it is essential to have a will to ensure that your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and belongings are followed when you pass away. Having a valid, updated will can provide much needed peace of mind. Without one, your estate may be distributed in a manner determined by Rhode Island’s intestacy laws, leaving little room for personalization.
When drafting a will, individuals have the power to decide who will be appointed as an executor of the estate, who should receive specific items or property, and even name guardians for minor children. Without such information specifically included in a will, the court system would have to step in and make decisions involving the disposition of personal property and other assets.
Having your wishes outlined in a well-crafted legal document not only ensures that your directives are followed but also makes the probate process run more smoothly for your loved ones in the aftermath of your passing.
Attorney Steven J. Hart of the Law Office of Steven J. Hart has more than 20 years of experience successfully helping clients in Rhode Island resolve a variety of legal matters, including drafting a last will and testament. If you need help preparing your will or dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s death, we’re here and ready to help you.