If you own a house and die without a will, then the courts must follow very strict rules in determining who gets the property. Oftentimes this isn’t how you would have wanted it. And whether it is or not the way you would have wanted it, the proceedings can be very drawn out and cost thousands of dollars in attorney fees. So our course it makes sense to get a will. But if you don’t have a will…
If you are single and have children, then those children will equally share ownership. If you are single and don’t have children (or any grandchildren), then it goes equally to your mother and father. If only one parent is still alive, then half goes to the surviving parent and the other half goes to your brothers and sisters. If you don’t have any siblings, then it all goes to your surviving parent. If neither parent is still alive, then it all goes to your siblings. If there are no surviving parents or siblings, then ownership gets divided into two parts and then gets distributed to various kin on your father’s and mother’s sides of the family.
If you are married, then there is a whole other set of rules. And it gets even more complicated.
First of all it depends on whether the house is separate property or community property. If it’s community property and there are no children or if all the surviving children are also the children of the surviving spouse, then it goes 100% to the surviving spouse. If there are surviving children that are not the children of the surviving spouse then the spouse gets 1/2 and the children get the other ½.
If the house is your own separate property, then your spouse gets 1/3 with a life estate, and your children get 2/3 subject to the life estate. If there are no children and both parents survive, then ½ goes to your spouse, ¼ goes to your mother, and ¼ goes to your father. If one of the parents has already passed, then their share gets divided between your siblings. If both parents have already passed, then ½ still goes to your spouse and the other ½ goes to your siblings. If no parents or siblings survive, then it all goes to your spouse.