Intestate Succession in Alaska

What happens if you die without a will? Learn about intestacy in Alaska

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If you die without a will in Alaska, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Alaska.

Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession

Only assets that would have passed through your will are affected by intestate succession laws. Usually, that includes only assets that you own alone, in your own name.

Many valuable assets don’t go through your will, and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples: 

  • property you’ve transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
  • securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • payable-on-death bank accounts, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, or as community property with the right of survivorship.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.

To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com or read about Avoiding Probate in Alaska.

Who Gets What in Alaska?

Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here’s a quick overview:

If you die with: here’s what happens:
  • children but no spouse, parents, or siblings
  • children inherit everything
  • spouse but no descendants or parents
  • spouse inherits everything
  • parents but no children, spouse, or siblings
  • parents inherit everything
  • siblings but no children, spouse, or parents
  • siblings inherit everything
  • spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants
  • spouse inherits everything
  • spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship
  • spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance
  • your descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse
  • spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance
  • your descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and parents
  • spouse inherits the first $200,000 of the intestate estate, plus 3/4 of the balance
  • parents inherit everything else
  •  

    The Spouse’s Share in Alaska

    In Alaska, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living parents or descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don’t, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property as follows:

    If you die with parents but no descendants. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $200,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance.

    Example: Gerry is married to Joe, and her father is still alive. Gerry and Joe signed an agreement that they wanted their house to be treated as community property; it is designated community property with right of survivorship. Joe is also the named beneficiary of Gerry’s retirement account. When Gerry dies, Joe automatically inherits the house and any remaining retirement funds; those things are not intestate property. Because Gerry has significant additional property that would have passed under a will, Joe inherits $200,000 worth of that property plus 3/4 of everything else. The remaining 1/4 of the intestate property goes to Gerry’s father.

    If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse, and your surviving spouse has no descendants from previous relationships. Your surviving spouse inherits all of your intestate property.

    If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse, and your surviving spouse has other descendants from previous relationships. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

    Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Karen also has a son from a previous marriage. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright. Bill also owns a good deal of other property that would have passed under a will, so Karen inherits $150,000 worth of that property plus half of everything else. The remaining half of Bill’s intestate property goes to Bill’s and Karen’s two children.

    If you die with descendants who are not the descendants of your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

    Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright and $150,000 worth of Barrett’s property -- that is, $100,000 plus half of the remainder. Barrett’s daughter inherits the remaining $50,000 share of Barrett’s property.

    In addition, if you own inalienable stock in a corporation organized under the Alaska Native Claims Act, your spouse’s inheritable share depends on whether you have children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren. If you don’t, your spouse inherits all of it. If you do, your spouse takes half.

    Children’s Shares in Alaska

    If you die without a will in Alaska, your children will receive an “intestate share” of your property. The size of each child’s share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)

    For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Alaska must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it’s not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    • Adopted children. Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
    • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
    • Children placed for adoption. Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share unless the decree of adoption specifically provides for continuation of inheritance rights. If, however, your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won’t affect their intestate inheritance. 
    • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share, as long as they survive at least 120 hours after birth.
    • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they will receive a share of your estate if a court establishes your paternity.
    • Grandchildren. Your grandchildren will receive a share only if their parent (your child) has died before you do.

    If you want to read the law, Alaska Statutes §§ 13.12.108 and 13.12.114 cover parent-child relationships.

    This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.

    Will the State Get Your Property?

    If you die without a will and don’t have any family, your property will “escheat” into the state’s coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won’t go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do.

    Other Alaska Intestate Succession Rules

    Here are a few other things to know about Alaska intestacy laws.

    • Survivorship period. To inherit under Alaska’s intestate succession statutes, a person must outlive you by 120 hours. So if you and your brother are in a car accident and he dies a few hours after you do, his estate would not receive any of your property.
    • Half-relatives. “Half” relatives inherit as if they were “whole.” That is, your sister with whom you share a father, but not a mother, has the same right to your property as she would if you had both parents in common.
    • Posthumous relatives. Relatives conceived before -- but born after -- you die inherit as if they had been born while you were alive.
    • Immigration status. Relatives entitled to an intestate share of your property will inherit whether or not they are citizens or legally in the United States.

    Learn More

    To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled When There is No Will.

    You can find Alaska’s intestate succession laws here: Alaska Statutes §§ 13.12.101-13.12.114.

    For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.

    Need a lawyer? Search for an experienced estate planning attorney with Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

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