Intestate Succession in Virginia

Intestate succession determines how your property will be distributed if you die without a will.

What in Intestate Succession in Virginia?

Intestate succession in Virginia determines who inherits your property when you die without a will. If you have a family member who has a died without a will, it’s important to know how the law will distribute your loved-one’s property as a result.

The court process that determines how property is distributed is known as the Virginia probate process.

This guide discusses more about the inner workings and rules of intestate succession in Virginia.

How Intestate Succession Works in Virginia

If you die without a will in Virginia, state law states that your property will be distributed as follows:

  1. Your surviving spouse;
  2. If you have no surviving spouse, to your children;
  3. If you have no children, to your parents;
  4. If your parents are deceased, to your siblings and their descendants;
  5. If there are no siblings, then 1/2 to paternal and maternal kindred.

Intestate succession in Virginia provides for an even more detailed line of succession after this point–you can read further in Va. Code § 64.2-200.

Keep in mind that this is the default succession path for an individual who dies in an uncomplicated family situation.

Complications that occurred during life, such as divorce and remarriage may affect succession, and who inherits what share of an estate. Keep reading below for these more detailed intestate succession rules.

What Property Will Be Transferred?

According to Virginia Intestate law, the only property that can be distributed are the ones in which you own by yourself outright in your name. Most often, this includes personal property such as real estate, vehicles, jewelry and art.

Monetary accounts such as savings, stocks, shares, bonds and cash also count towards probate property.

Property that doesn’t go through intestate succession includes property placed in a living trust, pay-on-death accounts, retirement funds, property held in tenancy by the entirety or joint tenancy, and more.

With intestate succession in Virginia, family members become de facto beneficiaries of your estate, that is, the property that passes through the probate process.

Such family beneficiaries could include your surviving spouse, children and grandchildren, parents, and siblings.

We’ll explain this more in depth below and also provide possible scenarios that may be relevant to you. As always, you should seek guidance from a licensed Virginia attorney for specifics.

Your Spouse’s Share of Your Virginia Estate

Through intestate succession in Virginia, your spouse’s share of your estate depends on the descendants you have and their direct relation to your spouse.

For example, if you’re married but you have a teenage son from a past relationship, your spouse would only inherit 1/3 of your intestate property. Your teenage son would inherit the rest.

However, if you only have children with one spouse, and that spouse survives you, all of your intestate property will go solely to your spouse.

Additionally, if you have no children, then your spouse will retain all of the rights to your intestate property.

Your Children’s Share of Your Virginia Estate

As mentioned above, your children’s share of your intestate property depends on if they’re from a previous relationship or if they are children you have with your current spouse.

Another key in determining your children’s share is whether or not you have a spouse. For example, if you have children but no spouse, your children will inherit all of it.

As mentioned above, if your children are descendants of your spouse as well, they won’t inherit it directly. However, most surviving spouses give their children some access to your estate in varying capacities.

As also mentioned above, if you have children from a previous marriage but also have a surviving spouse, your children will inherit 2/3 of your intestate property.

It’s important to note that legally adopted children are eligible to inherit your estate property just as if they were your biological children. Posthumous children, such as children you conceived but who were born after your death, also have rights to a share of your estate.

Grandchildren, whose parents have died before you, are also eligible.

Foster children and step children that you never legally adopted cannot inherit your estate through instate succession. Additionally, children whom you put up for adoption and who end up with another family cannot inherit your intestate property.

What Happens If I Have No Spouse and Children?

If you’re someone who does not have a surviving spouse or children, your estate will then continue through to the next person in the line of succession.

In this case, your intestate property would go to your parents.

If your parents are no longer alive, probate courts will then pass your estate to your siblings.

If you don’t have any surviving siblings, view Va. Code § 64.2-200 to learn see who inherits next.

What If I Have No Immediate Family Or Relatives?

If you pass away with no surviving family members, your intestate property will go to the state. With that said, it’s rare that this happens because intestate succession usually finds a family descendant to inherit your estate.

Intestate Succession Restrictions

Now that you’ve read about the different scenarios in which your surviving family members will inherit if you leave no will, it’s important to remember a few things about intestate succession in Virginia.

In Virginia, there’s a survivorship period in which family members must outlive you by a certain amount of time in order to inherit your estate.

Also, half-relatives who are looking to claim a share of your estate can only receive half of what they would if they were your full relatives.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that your relatives can only inherit your Virginia intestate property if they’re living here legally or if they are citizens of the United States.


In closing, after reading this guide, you should be able to understand more about what will happen to your estate if you pass away without a will.

To ensure that your property goes to right people, seek legal counsel by hiring a reliable estate planing attorney. Though Virginia intestate law works to make sure your estate goes to the right place, it’s better to put yourself in the best position possible.

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