When a person dies without a will, he is said to have died intestate. Real estate property and personal property of a person who dies intestate passes to his family through a set of laws that define intestate succesion. Every state has adopted rules for intestate succession.
The law varies
Every state in the United States has adopted a probate code. How property will be distributed in the event that a person dies without a will depends on each probate code's process of intestate succession, usually explained in a specific provision of the code. The rules for intestate succession are as varied as the states. Exactly what percentage of property each child would receive if a father died without a will requires a look at the particular state's probate code and explanation of intestate succession.
Spouse and issue
Generally speaking, however, the rules of intestate succession begin with distribution to the spouse and the decedent's issue or children. In some states, the spouse takes a percentage with the remainder divided equally among the children. For example, in California, a spouse whose husband died intestate would take all of the community property or marital property, With only one child, she would take 1/2 the separate property or non-marital property while the child took the other half. With more than one child, the wife would take the community property and 1/3 of the separate property while the children would split equally the remaining 2/3 of separate property. Only after the spouse and issue are taken care of does the intestacy statute branch into considerations for other degrees of relations, such as parents or siblings.
Adopted children can inherit from a father who dies intestate. Throughout the United States, adoption creates a legal relationship between adoptive parent and adoptive child identical to that of a biological parent-child relationship. Thus, an adopted child would inherit through the rules of intestate succession just as a natural child would.
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