Who Is Legally the Next of Kin?

By Teo Spengler

Next of kin is a legal term that comes up when someone has died without a will. If an individual dies without leaving a valid will, her estate passes to the relatives described as next of kin in the state's intestacy laws. Most states consider the deceased's surviving spouse and children next of kin for inheritance purposes.

Next of kin is a legal term that comes up when someone has died without a will. If an individual dies without leaving a valid will, her estate passes to the relatives described as next of kin in the state's intestacy laws. Most states consider the deceased's surviving spouse and children next of kin for inheritance purposes.

Determining Heirs

If a person writes a valid will before she dies, all of her property passes under that will to the persons or entities the will identifies as her beneficiaries, regardless of whether they are family or relatives. If she dies without a will, however, state intestacy laws apply. Most state intestacy laws only permit spouses and blood relatives to inherit and unmarried partners take nothing.

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Who Gets What

State laws vary about how an intestate estate is divided. If the deceased's spouse is living, she generally gets the largest portion of the estate; children, biological and adopted, share the rest. Laws often give a predeceased child's inheritance to his living children. The surviving spouse may take all if the couple was childless. Other blood relatives inherit if the deceased left neither spouse nor children.

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Rhode Island Inheritance Laws

References

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The Hierarchy of Heirs

The hierarchy of heirs is determined by laws that govern inheritance in each state. Some states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code and have based their inheritance laws on its recommendations. The Uniform Probate Code provides rules concerning who is entitled to inherit a deceased relative's property/estate if no last will and testament was executed. Although laws may vary somewhat by state, typically the hierarchy of heirs is intended to divide the estate fairly among surviving family members.

Mississippi Estate Inheritance Laws

If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property will be divided according to state law. These laws are known as "laws of intestate succession," and they provide a distribution scheme that dictates a priority of heirs. In other words, certain relatives are entitled to all, or a portion of, a decedent's estate under certain circumstances -- if he didn't make a valid will. Dying without a valid will is known as dying "intestate."

Maryland's Inheritance Law

When a person dies, his estate, comprised of all property acquired during his lifetime, will be distributed to his heirs and beneficiaries. In Maryland, property passes in accordance with the state's inheritance laws. These laws provide guidance for estates passing by will or through intestate succession, as well as nonprobate assets. Beneficiaries are determined by how the deceased's estate is set up.

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