family-cemetery-funeral | Rhode Island Probate Dispute LawyerIt's easy to put off estate planning, but estate planning is crucial to your family's financial security and peace of mind. In Rhode Island, dying without a valid will, known as dying intestate, can have significant consequences for your estate and loved ones and cause your property to pass through intestate succession. Our Rhode Island estate planning lawyers want to help your family avoid unnecessary complications by explaining the dangers of dying without a will and what you can do to protect your loved ones.

Intestate Succession in Rhode Island

When you pass away without a valid will in Rhode Island, state law dictates how your assets will be distributed. This process is called intestate succession, and it follows a specific hierarchy of heirs.

Spouse and Descendants

If you have a surviving spouse and descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), your spouse can use your real estate for the rest of their life and inherit one-half of your personal property.

Everything else will go to your descendants.

Descendants and No Spouse

If you have no surviving spouse but have descendants, your estate will be divided among your descendants. 

Spouse and Parents but No Descendants

Your spouse will get up to $150,000 of your real estate with the right to use the rest of it for life. Your spouse will also inherit $50,000 of your personal property and half of the remaining balance.

Everything else will go to your parents.

Parents but No Spouse or Descendants

Your parents may inherit your entire estate if you have no surviving spouse or descendants.

Siblings but No Spouse, Parents, or Descendants

Your estate may go to your siblings if you have no surviving descendants, spouse, or parents.

Other Relatives

Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives may inherit your property if you don't have a surviving parent, spouse, or descendant.

The State of Rhode Island

If you don't have any relatives to inherit your intestate property, your property will go to the State of Rhode Island.

It's important to note that the specifics of intestate succession can become more complex depending on your family situation. Legal counsel is essential to ensure a fair distribution.

Appointing an Administrator in Rhode Island

When you die intestate, the probate court will appoint an administrator to manage your estate according to Rhode Island intestacy laws. Typically, the court will choose a family member, such as a spouse or adult child, to fill this role. If no suitable family member is available or willing to serve, the court may appoint a qualified individual or institution as the administrator.

Administrator's Responsibilities

The administrator's responsibilities include:

  • Inventory and valuation of estate assets
  • Payment of estate debts and taxes
  • Distribution of assets according to Rhode Island's intestate succession laws
  • Accounting of estate transactions

Why Consult a Rhode Island Estate Planning Lawyer?

While intestate succession laws provide a framework for asset distribution, they may not align with your wishes or your family's needs. A Rhode Island estate planning lawyer can help you in the following ways.


An experienced lawyer can help you create a will that reflects your specific wishes, ensuring that your assets pass according to your wishes.

Minimizing Conflicts

Without a clear will, disputes among family members can arise, leading to costly legal battles. A well-drafted will can help minimize the potential for conflict.

Tax Planning

An estate planning lawyer can advise you on strategies to reduce estate taxes, potentially saving your heirs a substantial amount of money.

Protection of Vulnerable Beneficiaries

If you have beneficiaries with special needs or who are unable to manage their finances, an estate planning lawyer can help establish trusts and provide for their long-term well-being.

Peace of Mind

Knowing that your estate plan is well-crafted and legally sound can provide peace of mind, allowing you to focus on enjoying life without worrying about the future.

Dying without a valid will in Rhode Island can lead to unintended consequences, potentially causing stress and conflicts among your loved ones. While intestacy laws will decide who inherits property, these laws may not align with your desires, making it essential to consult with a Rhode Island estate planning lawyer to create a comprehensive estate plan based on your wishes.

Christopher L. Russo
Helping Rhode Island personal injury victims for nearly three decades to get the compensation they deserve.