Intestate Succession in Connecticut

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

Updated by , Attorney

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 pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:

  • property you've transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account with a named beneficiary
  • securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • real estate for which you have a transfer on death deed
  • vehicles for which you have a transfer on death registration
  • payable-on-death bank accounts, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.

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

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:

If you die with:

here's what happens:

children but no spouse children inherit everything
spouse but no descendants or parents spouse inherits everything
spouse and descendants from you and 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 at least one descendant from you and someone other than that spouse spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property

descendants inherit everything else
spouse and parents spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance

parents inherit remaining intestate property
parents but no spouse or descendants parents inherit everything
siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents siblings inherit everything

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, whether or not you are married, and whether your children are also the children of your spouse. (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. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-731.
  • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share. However, if there is no next of kin, your stepchildren will inherit your property. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-439.
  • 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. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-731.
  • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-785.
  • 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, or (3) you acknowledge under oath in writing that you are the children's father.. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-438.
  • Grandchildren. A grandchild will receive a share only if that grandchild's parent (your son or daughter) is not alive to receive his or her share.

In case you want to read the law, Connecticut General Statutes § § 45a-437(b) and 45a-438 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, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, or stepchildren.

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. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-439.
  • 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. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-439.
  • Slayer statute. A person found guilty of killing a relative will not inherit from the deceased person. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-447.

Learn More

To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's No Will.

You can find Connecticut's intestate succession in Sections 45a-437 and 45a-438 of the Connecticut General Statutes.

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

Ready to create your will?

Get Professional Help
Talk to an Estate Planning attorney.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you