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Death Without a Will - Intestacy

What is "intestacy"?

A person who died without a Will is said to have died "intestate." The process of distributing estate property to heirs where there is no Will or when the Will is invalid is the process of intestacy. Partial intestacy means that the person's Will did not give away everything he or she owned. In that case, some of the property passes under the Will and whatever is left passes through intestacy.

The probate process is the same under intestacy as it is for a Will. The Personal Representative must do all of the same tasks, including paying Allowances and Exempt Property, paying creditor claims and transferring the property to those persons who rightfully inherit it. The main difference is to whom estate property passes at the end of the probate.

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Who inherits the property if the person dies without a Will?

The state of Alaska decides who inherits your property if you do not make a valid Will. The charts below show how property passes to a decedent's heirs through intestacy.

If the person is survived by a spouse, the estate is divided in this way:

Survivors of the Person who Died Heir who Inherits Share

No descendants or parents survive the person who died.

Surviving spouse

All

All of the surviving descendants of the person who died are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other surviving descendant from another relationship.

Surviving spouse

All

All of the surviving descendants of the person who died are also descendants of the surviving spouse but the surviving spouse has at least one other surviving descendant from another relationship.

Surviving spouse

$150,000 + 1/2 of balance

Descendants

1/2 of balance

One or more descendants survive the person who died but they are not descendants of the surviving spouse.

Surviving spouse

$100,000 + 1/2 of balance

Descendants

1/2 of balance

No descendants survive the person who died but both of the person's parents survive.

Surviving spouse

$200,000 + 3/4 of balance

Each parent

1/8 of balance

No descendants survive the person who died and only one of the person's parents survives.

Surviving spouse

$200,000 + 3/4 of balance

Parent

1/4 of balance

If the person is not survived by a spouse, the estate is divided in this way:

Survivors of the Person who Died Heir

Share

One or more descendants survive the person who died.

Descendants

All

No descendants survive the person who died.

Each parent if both survive

1/2

Parent if only one survives

All

No descendants or parents survive the person who died.

Parents' descendants

All

No descendants, parents or parents' descendants survive the person who died, but at least one grandparent survives on each side of the family.

Each paternal grandparent if both survive
Paternal grandparent if only one survives

1/4
1/2

Each maternal grandparent if both survive
Maternal grandparent if only one survives

1/4
1/2

No surviving descendants, parents or parents' descendants survive the person who died.  One or both sets of grandparents is deceased.

Paternal grandparents (or descendants)

1/2

Maternal grandparents (or descendants)

1/2

Only one set of paternal or maternal grandparents' descendants

All

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Can a surviving spouse take a larger share than what he or she is entitled to in intestacy?

Yes. If the person who died left very little probate property, the surviving spouse is entitled to a minimum amount of the person's total property. This amount is called the spouse's elective share. It is approximately equal to one-third of the person's probate property and nonprobate property. The surviving spouse receives the Homestead Allowance, Family Allowance and Exempt Property in addition to the elective share. A surviving spouse may also be entitled to an additional $50,000 in certain situations.

Calculating the exact amount of the elective share is very complicated. Both the surviving spouse and the Personal Representative should see his or her own probate lawyer if the surviving spouse receives a small amount through intestacy or nothing at all.

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Is a person related by half blood an heir?

Yes. Anyone related by half blood to the person who died inherits the same share that he or she would if related by whole blood.

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Is a person related by a step-relationship an heir?

No. Stepparents, stepchildren and stepsiblings do not inherit any property if the person who died did not leave a Will. It does not make any difference if the stepfamily lived together for a long time. Relatives such as foster children or foster parents, grandparents who raise their grandchildren or any other relatives acting as surrogates are also not heirs.

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Is a person who is not a U.S. citizen an heir?

Yes. A person who is not a U.S. citizen has the same right to inherit in intestacy as a U.S. citizen.

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Is a person related by adoption an heir?

Yes. A person who has been adopted inherits from his or her adoptive parents and not his or her natural parents. But if the person is adopted by a natural parent's spouse, the adopted person (and his or her descendants) can inherit from both the natural parents and the adoptive parent.

However, the natural parents of the person who has been adopted and the natural parents' relatives can only inherit from the adopted person if the natural parent openly treated the child as his or her own child and did not refuse to support the child.

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Is a person born out of wedlock an heir?

Yes. But if the person has been adopted, the person may or may not be considered an heir depending on the circumstances.

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Is a child who was conceived, but not yet born, when the person died an heir?

Yes, if the child lives for five days or more after birth.

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What if an heir is related in two different ways to the person who died?

The heir can only inherit through the relationship that gives the heir the largest share of the estate.

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Where does the property pass if no heirs survive?

If the person who died left no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, parents' descendants, grandparents or grandparents' descendants, all of that person's property passes to the state of Alaska.

If you are an heir and think property wrongly passed to the state of Alaska, you may be able to get the property back if you act promptly. It is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer if property has passed to the state of Alaska.

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If the person who died gave property to an heir before death, does this reduce the heir's share?

Generally, no. The heirs will receive the gift of property made before the person's death and the property inherited after death.

But the heir's share will be reduced if one of the following applies:

If a gift of property made before the person's death reduces the heir's share, the property is valued at the time the heir received the property or on the date of the person's death, whichever comes first. A gift made before the person's death does not reduce any share that passes by representation.

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If an heir owed money to the person who died, does this reduce the heir's share?

Yes. For example, if a child owed money to a parent before death but did not pay the loan back, the child's share is reduced by the amount of the debt. However, if an heir who owes a debt dies before the person who died, the debt does not reduce any share passing by representation.

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Who inherits Native (ANCSA) stock if there is no Will?

If the person who died did not leave either a Will or a stock will, Native corporation stock created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) passes as follows:

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Rev. 11 March 2013
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