Intestate Succession in Connecticut
What happens if you die without a will? Learn about intestacy in Connecticut.
If you die without a will in Connecticut, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Connecticut.
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
- vehicles held by transfer on death registration, or
- property you own with someone else in joint tenancy.
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.
Who Gets What in Connecticut?
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:
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The Spouse’s Share in Connecticut
In Connecticut, 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 $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance.
Example: Gerry is married to Joe, and her father is still alive. Gerry owns a house in joint tenancy with Joe, and 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 $100,000 worth of that property plus 3/4 of everything else. The remaining 1/4 of Gerry’s intestate property goes to Gerry’s father.
If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.
Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. 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 $100,000 worth of that property plus half of everything else. The remaining half goes to the couple’s children.
If you die with at least one descendant who is not the descendant of your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property.
Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old 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 $100,000 worth of Barrett’s property. Barrett’s daughter inherits the remaining $100,000 share of Barrett’s property.
Children’s Shares in Connecticut
If you die without a will in Connecticut, 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 Connecticut 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. However, if 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.
- 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 (1) you married the mother after the children’s birth, (2) a court has held that you are in fact the children’s father, (3) you acknowledge under oath in writing that you are the children’s father, or (4) after your death or the child’s death, paternity is established by clear and convincing evidence that you acknowledged in writing that you are the father of the child and you openly treated the child as yours.
- 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, Connecticut General Statutes §§ 45a-437(b) and 45a-438 cover parent-child relationships. You can search the statutes from the website of the Connecticut General Assembly.
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, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, neices, nephews, or cousins.
Other Connecticut Intestate Succession Rules
Here are a few other things to know about Connecticut intestacy laws.
- 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.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled When There is No Will.
You can find Connecticut’s intestate succession in Sections 45a-437 and 45a-438 of the Connecticut General Statutes. If you want to read the law, you can search the Connecticut statutes from the website of the Connecticut General Assembly.
For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.
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