When a person dies without having made a will, the person is said to have died "intestate". So, what happens to the property of a person who has died intestate? In Hawaii, the law provides a default distribution scheme by which the estate will be distributed. Specifically, Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 560:2-101 to 103 governs intestate succession. It is also important not to forget that the estate of a person who died intestate will have to go through probate.
That being said, the fate of a decedent's assets depends on the decedent's familial situation at the time of his or her death. Did the decedent leave a surviving spouse or reciprocal beneficiary? Children from another marriage? No children? Are his or her parents still alive? Below is a brief summary outlining the intestacy statute, which provides for a variety of situations. For brevity and simplicity's sake, "reciprocal beneficiary" is omitted from the examples below, but can be interchanged with "surviving spouse".
A decedent's entire estate will go to the surviving spouse in these situations:
Samuel K.L. Suen is an attorney based in Honolulu, Hawaii specializing in estate planning, probate, conservatorship and guardianship matters.
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