Despite the effort that many in Seattle put into their estate planning, there is no guarantee that disputes and discord will not arise amongst their beneficiaries once they are gone. If such disputes are possible even when people have planned out the distribution of their estates, imagine the chaos that can ensue when a person dies without a will. Such an occurrence is certainly not uncommon; after all, according to information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, only four out of 10 adults in America have drafted any sort of estate planning documents.
However, the law does not allow for a veritable "free-for-all" amongst one's heirs when he or she forgets to create a will. Instead, statutes have been created that dictate how a decedent's assets are to be dispersed if he or she dies "intestate" (without a will). Local intestate succession guidelines can be found in Section 11.04.015 of the Revised Code of Washington. The law identifies one's surviving spouse or domestic partner as the first beneficiary entitled to estate assets. Not only does he or she inherit all of the community property he or she shared with the decedent, but he or she is also entitled to all of the decedent's estate if the decedent has no surviving direct descendants or immediate family members. If the decedent does have surviving issue, one-half of the estate is split equally amongst them, while the other half goes to the surviving spouse or domestic partner.
The surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive three-quarters of the decedent's estate if the decedent has no issue, but is survived by his or her parents or siblings (in which case, the remaining one-fourth would go to them). Intestate succession guidelines contain no provisions for anyone not related to the decedent.