Intestate succession in Virginia determines who inherits your property when you die without a will.
If you have a family member who has a died without a will, it’s important to know how the law will distribute your loved one’s property as a result.
The court process that determines how property is distributed is known as the Virginia probate process.
In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about intestate succession in Virginia.
How Intestate Succession Works in Virginia
If you die without a will in Virginia, state law states that your property will be distributed as follows:
- Your surviving spouse;
- If you have no surviving spouse, to your children;
- If you have no children, to your parents;
- If your parents are deceased, to your siblings and their descendants;
- If there are no siblings, then 1/2 to paternal and maternal kindred.
Intestate succession in Virginia provides for an even more detailed line of succession after this point.
Keep in mind that this is the default succession path for an individual who dies in an uncomplicated family situation.
Complications that occurred during life, such as divorce and remarriage, may affect the succession process.
For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you speak with an attorney before making any lasting decisions in your case.
What property will be transferred?
According to Virginia intestate succession law, the only property that can be distributed are the ones in which you own by yourself outright in your name.
Most often, this includes personal property such as real estate, vehicles, jewelry and art.
Monetary accounts such as savings, stocks, shares, bonds and cash also count towards probate property.
Property that doesn’t go through intestate succession includes property placed in a living trust, pay-on-death accounts, retirement funds, property held in tenancy by the entirety or joint tenancy, and more.
With intestate succession in Virginia, family members become de facto beneficiaries of your estate, that is, the property that passes through the probate process.
Such family beneficiaries could include your surviving spouse, children and grandchildren, parents, and siblings.
Your Spouse’s Share of Your Virginia Estate
Through intestate succession in Virginia, your spouse’s share of your estate depends on the descendants you have and their direct relation to your spouse.
For example, if you’re married but you have a teenage son from a past relationship, your spouse would only inherit 1/3 of your intestate property. Your teenage son would inherit the rest.
However, if you only have children with one spouse, and that spouse survives you, all of your intestate property will go solely to your spouse.
Additionally, if you have no children, then your spouse will retain all of the rights to your intestate property.
Your Children’s Share of Your Virginia Estate
As mentioned above, your children’s share of your intestate property depends on if they’re from a previous relationship or if they are children you have with your current spouse.
Another key in determining your children’s share is whether or not you have a spouse.
For example, if you have children but no spouse, your children will inherit all of it.
As mentioned above, if your children are descendants of your spouse as well, they won’t inherit it directly.
However, most surviving spouses give their children some access to your estate in varying capacities.
As also mentioned above, if you have children from a previous marriage but also have a surviving spouse, your children will inherit 2/3 of your intestate property.
It’s important to note that legally adopted children are eligible to inherit your estate property just as if they were your biological children.
Posthumous children, such as children you conceived but who were born after your death, also have rights to a share of your estate.
Grandchildren, whose parents have died before you, are also eligible.
Foster children and step children that you never legally adopted cannot inherit your estate through instate succession.
Additionally, children whom you put up for adoption and who end up with another family cannot inherit your intestate property.
Virginia Intestate Succession FAQ
What happens if I have no spouse or children?
If you’re someone who does not have a surviving spouse or children, your estate will then continue through to the next person in the line of succession.
In this case, your intestate property would go to your parents.
If your parents are no longer alive, probate courts will then pass your estate to your siblings.
If you don’t have any surviving siblings, view Va. Code § 64.2-200 to learn see who inherits next.
What if I have no immediate family or relatives?
If you pass away with no surviving family members, your intestate property will go to the state.
With that said, it’s rare that this happens because intestate succession usually finds a family descendant to inherit your estate.
What about half-relatives?
Although they may only be considered “half” relations by law, half-relatives are still viewed as your relations during the probate process, and may be entitled to a portion of your inheritance.
“Collaterals of the half blood shall inherit only half as much as those of the whole blood.”Virginia Code § 64.2-202
Do I have to pay taxes if I inherit in Virginia?
No. However, the estate itself is subject to any and all estate taxes, income taxes, probate fees, lawyers fees, and court fees.
If you don’t want your estate to bleed money to taxes and fees, you should create a thorough estate plan which includes a will, a trust, and any other relevant docuements.
A will allows you to cover your property, determine your beneficiaries, and avoid estate taxes when possible.
Meanwhile, a trust allows you to choose your beneficiaries, protects your estate from probate proceedings, and eliminates the risk of your estate being drained by court and legal fees.
If you die without a will in Virginia, your estate will go through the intestate succession process.
This process will divide your estate among your relatives based on the rules outlined in the Virginia Code.
To ensure that your property goes to the right people, seek legal counsel by hiring a reliable estate planning attorney.
Though Virginia intestate law works to make sure your estate goes to the right place, it’s better to put yourself in the best position possible.