Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What happens when someone passes away without a will?

When someone dies without a will, the laws of intestacy apply.  This does not mean that your assets go to the state, a common misconception.  Rather, state law says that your probate estate will go to your heirs at law.  (See “Probate Estate” and “Heirs at Law” in the Technical Terms section, below.)

Technical Terms

Heirs at Law

Your heirs at law are the people who will receive your probate estate if you don’t have a will.  If you want to see the technical language, take a look at Virginia Code § 64.2-200. A quick overview is:

  • If you are married and don’t have children by anyone else, your spouse is your sole heir.
  • If you are married but do have children by someone else, your spouse gets one-third of your probate estate and your children (all of your children) get two-thirds.
  • If you are unmarried and have no children or further descendants, your parents are your heirs, if they are alive.
  • Next in line come your siblings, including the children of deceased siblings.
  • Next come cousins, etc.