What happens if you own property but do not have a will?

Q: My aunt, a widow, is ill and does not have a will. She has three adult children from whom she is estranged. She owns property and has life insurance but feels that is enough. We are trying to avoid a family catastrophe. (Belle Vernon, PA)

A: If she has any property in her name only, (not held jointly or in trust for with others) whether it is real property or personal property, and she has no will in place, it will pass in accordance with the PA intestate succession statute. This statute determines who inherits from a deceased person if he or she has no will. In your aunt’s case, her children will inherit equally from her estate. Her life insurance policy is likely to have a listed beneficiary, but I would tell her to confirm.

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