Intestate Succession in South Dakota

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

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

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

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 South Dakota.

Who Gets What in South Dakota?

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 spouse inherits everything
spouse and descendants from you and that spouse spouse inherits everything
spouse and at least one descendant from you and someone other than that spouse spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance

descendants inherit everything else
parents but no spouse or descendants parents inherit everything
siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents siblings inherit everything

(S.D. Codified Laws §§ 29A-2-102; 29A-2-103 (2024).)

The Spouse's Share in South Dakota

In South Dakota, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants—children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, or if all of your descendants are from you and your spouse, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property.

If you have descendants from someone other than your spouse, your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance. Your descendants inherit everything else. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-102 (2024).)

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—it isn't intestate property. Jed also inherits $150,000 worth of Barrett's property that is, $100,000 plus 1/2 of the remaining $100,000 balance. Barrett's daughter inherits the remaining $50,000 share of Barrett's property.

Children's Shares in South Dakota

If you die without a will in South Dakota, 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, whether your spouse is also your children's parent, and whether you have any children from a previous relationship. (See the table above.)

For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of South Dakota 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. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-114 (2024).)
  • 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. In addition, if your biological children were adopted by a birth grandparent or a descendant of a birth grandparent, they can still inherit from you. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-114 (2024).)
  • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share, as long as they survive for at least 120 hours after birth and are born within ten months of your death. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-108 (2024).)
  • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children's mother when she gave birth to them, they may receive a share of your estate if (1) you married the mother after your children's birth, (2) you acknowledged your paternity in writing, or (3) your paternity is proved under South Dakota law either before or after your death. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-114 (2024).)
  • Children born during your marriage. Any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child and will receive a share of your estate.
  • 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. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-106 (2024).)

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. If you want to read the law itself, you can find a link to the South Dakota Codified Laws at the end of this article.

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. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-105 (2024).)

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, aunts, uncles, or cousins.

Other South Dakota Intestate Succession Rules

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

  • Survivorship period. To inherit under South Dakota'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. However, this rule will not apply if it results in the state taking your property. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-104 (2024).)
  • 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. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-107 (2024).)
  • Posthumous relatives. Relatives conceived before—but born after—you die inherit as if they had been born while you were alive, as long as they survive at least 120 hours after birth and are born within ten months of your death. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-108 (2024).)
  • 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. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-111 (2024).)
  • Advancements. If you give a relative property during your lifetime, the value of the property is subtracted from your relative's share only if you or your relative states this in writing. (S.D. Codified Laws § 29A-2-109 (2024).)

Learn More

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

You can find South Dakota's intestate succession laws here: South Dakota Codified Laws §§ 29A-2-101 to 29A-2-114.

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

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