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What Happens If A Person Dies Without A Will?

Often times, the public is under the misconception that if a person dies without a will, their assets will go to the state of Nevada.  However, this is only a rumor.  In reality, if a person dies without a will, the state of Nevada has a set of default rules (intestacy laws) under NRS Chapter 134 that directs who receives an inheritance in the absence of a will.  The beneficiaries are different depending on whether the person is married or single or has separate property or community property.

In general, the deceased person’s interest in all community property passes to the surviving spouse, if any.  Separate property is more complicated.  Details regarding the default distribution of separate property assets can be found in NRS Chapter 134.  The basic default rules for a surviving spouse or children are as follows:

  • If the decedent has a surviving spouse and one child, the surviving spouse gets 1/2 of the separate property and the child gets 1/2 of the separate property
  • If there is more than one child, the surviving spouse gets 1/3rd  of the separate property and the children share the remaining 2/3rds of the separate property
  • There are also different provisions if a person leaves no surviving spouse but children

Unfortunately, many times the default rules do not distribute the assets as the decedent intended (or as the surviving family members expected).  A surviving spouse may end up sharing the estate with the children or the assets may be distributed to unintended beneficiaries.  In addition, accounts with designated beneficiaries may trump the default (intestacy) rules.  In my experience, clients are generally unhappy with the default rules and as such, a person should always have at least a basic estate plan to make sure their assets go to the beneficiaries of their choice. 

Should you have any questions about avoiding or interpreting the Nevada default rules, please contact our office at (702) 433-4455 or email us via our Contact Us portion of our website.

Attorney – Corey J. Schmutz