A very common question asked by estate planning clients is “what happens to my property if I am single when I die? The answer to this question generally depends on three things: (1) whether you have a will, (2) the laws of the state you live in and (3) which of your relatives are still alive when you pass away. This would be true even if you are married when you die. Each state has its own set of “intestate succession” laws which determine where you property will go if you die without a will. If you have a will, on the other hand, the terms of your will determine who will inherit your property.
A will is an estate planning document that allows you to specify the individuals, institutions or other organizations (including charities) you want your assets distributed to when you pass away. Whether you are married or single when you die, the terms of your will always determine where your property will go. If you die without a will, or “intestate,” the laws of your state will determine how your assets are distributed.
In Nevada, if you have children but no spouse, your children will inherit everything. If your parents are living, but you have no children when you die, they will inherit everything. Likewise, if your parents are deceased and you have no children, but your siblings survive you, they will inherit everything. If any of your siblings are deceased, the share they would have received will go to their descendants.
If you do not have a will, and you have children, In Nevada they will receive what is called an “intestate share” of your estate. The size of the share will depend on how many children you have, because they will share equally. They must legally be your children; it will not go to step children. If you legally adopt a child, he or she will receive an intestate share along with any biological children. However, foster or stepchildren who have not been legally adopted do not receive a share.
If you have a child who was legally adopted by another family, that child will no longer be entitled to a share of your estate. Men who have children born outside of marriage can only receive a share if paternity has been acknowledged or proved in court. A child that was conceived by you, but not actually born before your death, will still receive a share of your estate in Nevada.
There are a few miscellaneous rules or definitions that may apply to your particular situation. For example, “half” relatives inherit as if they were “whole.” So, your brother with whom you share a mother, but not a father, will have the same right to your property as he would if you had both parents in common. Citizenship does not affect inheritance, either. Nevada also recognizes what is known as the “killer” rule, which provides that if someone commits a felony and it results in your death, that person cannot inherit any part of your estate.
If you have any questions regarding inheritance and intestate succession laws in Reno Nevada, or need assistance in will drafting in Nevada, please give us call.