Siblings Rights After Parents Death: What happens to your parent’s estate when they die?

Siblings Rights After Parents Death: What You Need to Know

An image to Illustrate: siblings rights after parents death
How to inherit from your parent and get along with your siblings. This article covers everything you need to know about sibling inheritance laws, common scenarios, and tips to avoid or resolve conflicts/PHOTO COURTESY: Bing Images

The death of a parent is a difficult and emotional event, especially if you have siblings.

You may have questions about:

  • how your parent’s estate will be distributed
  • who will inherit the house
  • what rights do you have as a sibling

This article will explain the:

  • basics of sibling inheritance laws
  • how to deal with common scenarios
  • how to avoid conflicts with your brothers and sisters

What are Sibling Inheritance Laws?

Sibling inheritance laws are the rules that govern how a parent’s estate is divided among their children after their death.

These laws vary depending on:

  • whether the parent had a valid will or not
  • whether they lived in a community property state or a common law state

Law 1

If the parent had a valid will, the will determines how the estate is distributed.

The parent can choose to leave their assets to anyone they want, including their:

  • children, spouses, friends, charities, or others.

The parent can also disinherit a child for any reason unless the child is a minor or has a disability.

However, a disinherited child may still have the right to contest the will in court.

If they can prove that the will was invalid, fraudulent, coerced, or influenced by someone else.

Law 2

If the parent did not have a valid will, they are considered to have died intestate.

In this case, the state’s intestacy laws decide how the estate is distributed.

Usually, the spouse and the children are the first in line to inherit, followed by other relatives.

The share of each heir depends on the number and relationship of the surviving family members.

For example:

  • if the parent had a spouse and three children, the spouse may get half of the estate, and each child may get one-sixth.

If the parent had no spouse but four children, each child may get one-fourth of the estate.

Law 3

If the parent lived in a community property state, such as California, Texas, or Arizona, the spouse and the children have different rights than in a common law state.

In a community property state, the spouse owns half of the marital property, which is the property acquired during the marriage, regardless of who earned it or whose name is on it.

The other half of the marital property, and the separate property, which is the property owned before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance, can be distributed by the parent’s will or by the state’s intestacy laws.

The children have no claim to the spouse’s half of the marital property unless the spouse dies or remarries.

An image to Illustrate: siblings rights after parents death
What happens to your parent’s estate when they die? Learn about sibling inheritance laws, how to handle common scenarios, and how to avoid conflicts with your brothers and sisters/PHOTO: Twitter

How to Deal with Common Scenarios

When a parent dies, some common scenarios may arise among the siblings, such as:

Who gets the house?

The house is often one of the most valuable and sentimental assets in a parent’s estate.

If the parent left a will, the will should specify who gets the house, or whether it should be sold and the proceeds divided among the heirs.

If the parent did not leave a will, the house will be part of the estate and subject to the state’s intestacy laws.

Given the parent had a spouse, the spouse may have the right to live in the house for the rest of their life, or to claim a share of its value.

If the parent had no spouse, the house would be divided among the children, either by:

  • giving each child a percentage of ownership
  • by selling the house and splitting the money

If the siblings cannot agree on what to do with the house, they may have to go to court and let a judge decide.

How to handle debts and taxes?

The parent’s estate is responsible for paying any debts and taxes that the parent owed at the time of their death before any assets are distributed to the heirs.

This may include mortgages, credit cards, medical bills, income taxes, estate taxes, and funeral expenses.

The executor of the estate, is in charge of paying these debts and taxes, using the estate’s funds.

If the estate does not have enough money to pay all the debts and taxes, some assets may have to be sold, or some creditors may have to accept less than what they are owed.

The heirs are not personally liable for the parent’s debts, unless they co-signed or guaranteed them, or they inherited an asset that is subject to a lien or a mortgage.

How to avoid conflicts and disputes?

The death of a parent can trigger conflicts and disputes among the siblings, especially if there are issues of fairness, favouritism, or resentment.

Some siblings may feel that they deserve more than others, or that they were treated unfairly by the parent or the executor.

Other siblings may have different opinions on how to handle the estate, or how to honour the parent’s wishes.

Some siblings may have personal or financial problems that affect their relationship with the others.

To avoid or resolve these conflicts and disputes, the siblings should:

  • try to communicate openly and respectfully
  • understand each other’s perspectives and feelings

They should also consult a lawyer, a mediator, or a counsellor if they need legal advice, professional guidance, or emotional support.


Siblings rights after parents’ death can be complex and confusing, but they can be understood and handled with some knowledge and planning.

The key is to have a valid will that expresses the parent’s wishes and to follow the state’s laws that govern the distribution of the estate.

The siblings should also cooperate and communicate with each other.

By doing so, they can honour their parent’s legacy, and preserve their family bonds.


Leave a Comment