Guide To Sibling Inheritance Laws: Everything You Need To Know

Interested in understanding the dynamics of inheritance laws, especially among siblings? Seek no more! Estate planning specialists will provide insights.

Those individuals were your initial companions during childhood.

You engaged in activities like biking, exchanged secrets, and had disputes over the TV remote.

As time passed, you may have remained close or grown apart. The relationships with your siblings can significantly shape your life.

However, when it comes to inheritance, things can become perplexing.

Let’s unravel the complexities of sibling inheritance laws and explore situations where a sibling might have a claim to an inheritance.

Guide To Sibling Inheritance Laws
Sibling inheritance laws dictate the inheritance share for siblings based on factors like the presence of a will or trust, the existence of a surviving spouse, and the order of succession: Photo courtesy (Trust & Will)

What are sibling inheritance laws?

When heirs distribute the Estate of a deceased person (a decedent), they follow a specific order of inheritance. In most cases, siblings do not hold a high position in the order of inheritance.

Intestate succession and intestacy come into play in such situations.

If you haven’t encountered these legal terms before, you might be wondering: what is intestate succession or intestacy? That’s a valid question.

Intestacy occurs when a person dies without a Will or when some of their possessions are not covered in their Will.

The probate court will likely handle their Estate (all their assets), subject to the intestate laws of their state.

The distribution of the decedent’s Estate to heirs is known as intestate succession.

Typically, the order of intestate succession is as follows: first, the surviving spouse or domestic partner and children (both biological and adopted), followed by surviving parents.

If there are deceased children with living grandchildren, those grandchildren may become the inheritors.

In cases where the deceased person has no living spouse or domestic partner, no children, no grandchildren, and deceased parents, their siblings would be next in line to receive the Estate.

Laws governing sibling inheritance usually come into play when a person dies without creating a Will or Trust, or when all the beneficiaries named in the Will have passed away. 

How is inheritance split between siblings?

When a court legally establishes siblings as the surviving kin highest in the order of succession, they will receive an equal inheritance of the assets in their deceased sibling’s Estate.

If there is only one surviving sibling, they will inherit the entire Estate. In the case of four surviving siblings, each will receive a 25% share of the Estate.

Do all siblings have the same rights?

Sibling inheritance laws cover full siblings (with two shared parents) and half-siblings (with one shared parent).

Step-siblings are included in sibling intestate succession only if legally adopted by the decedent’s parent, making them legal siblings.

Typically, probate court grants equal shares of the Estate to each sibling.

However, disputes may arise if one sibling believes they deserve a larger portion due to providing more care or contributing financially or through services, leading them to petition for a reconsideration.

When are siblings awarded an inheritance?

Siblings can inherit in specific situations, such as when mentioned in a Will or Trust.

If there’s no Will or Trust, and the sibling’s property isn’t specified, it goes through probate.

Probate, a legal process, determines inheritance for siblings if there’s no closer relative.

Intestate succession usually prioritizes spouse and children, but if none exist, siblings may inherit.

Read more: What to do when sibling won’t move out of inherited house

Inheritance laws by state:

There are three types of inheritance laws determining Estate division, varying by state. In intestacy, these laws apply.

  1. Common law: Surviving spouses may claim one-third or one-half of the Estate, not necessarily half of marital property.
  2. Community property: In some states, spouses are automatic co-owners of marital earnings, with at least half going to the surviving spouse.
  3. Elective community property: Allows community property trusts, granting spouses shared assets and inheritance rights.

Inheritance laws by state:

  • Common law: Alabama to West Virginia
  • Community property: Arizona to Wisconsin
  • Elective community property: Alaska, Kentucky, Tennessee

Will your siblings inherit your Estate?

Estate planning is crucial due to sibling inheritance law complexities.

A Will or Trust lets you decide property distribution, avoiding probate and family conflicts.

It’s a proactive solution for a clear and legally-binding arrangement.

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