Intestate Succession in Virginia

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

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

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

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 Virginia.

Who Gets What in Virginia?

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, all of whom are descendants of that spouse spouse inherits everything
spouse and descendants, at least one of whom is from someone other than that spouse spouse inherits 1/3 of your intestate property

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

(Va. Code § 64.2-200 (2024).)

The Spouse's Share in Virginia

In Virginia, 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 also descendants of your spouse, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property.

If, however, you die with at least one descendant who is not the descendant of your surviving spouse, then your spouse inherits only 1/3 of your intestate property. (Va. Code § 64.2-200 (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 $300,000 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's not intestate property—plus $100,000 worth of Barrett's property. Barrett's daughter inherits the remaining $200,000 share of Barrett's property.

Children's Shares in Virginia

If you die without a will in Virginia, 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 spouse is also your children's parent. (See the table above.)

For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Virginia 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. (Va. Code § 64.2-102 (2024).)
  • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share. However, if you have no other relatives, your stepchildren will have a right to inherit. (Va. Code § 64.2-200 (2024).)
  • 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. (Va. Code § 64.2-102 (2024).)
  • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share of your estate. (Va. Code § 64.2-204 (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 had participated in a marriage ceremony—even if it later turned out to be void—or (2) your paternity is established "by clear and convincing evidence" under Virginia law. In some circumstances, a child born out of wedlock has only one year from the date of your death to file a claim for a portion of your property. (Va. Code §§ 64.2-102; 64.2-103 (2024).)
  • 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. (Va. Code § 64.2-202 (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 laws yourself, you'll find a link to the Virginia Code 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. (Va. Code § 64.2-200 (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, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, great grandparents, brothers and sisters of grandparents and their descendants, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do.

Other Virginia Intestate Succession Rules

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

  • Survivorship period. To inherit under Virginia'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. (Va. Code § 64.2-2201 (2024).)
  • Half-relatives. "Half" relatives inherit only half as much as they would if they were "whole." That is, your sister with whom you share a father, but not a mother, has the right to one-half of the amount of your property as she would if you had both parents in common. (Va. Code § 64.2-202 (2024).)
  • Posthumous relatives. Relatives conceived before—but born after—you die inherit as if they had been born while you were alive. (Va. Code § 64.2-204 (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. (Va. Code § 64.2-203 (2024).)

Learn More

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

You can find Virginia's intestate succession laws here: Virginia Code §§ 64.2-200 to 64.2-206.

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