If someone dies without a Will who is entitled to their possessions?

UPDATED: Aug 14, 2011

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If someone dies without a Will who is entitled to their possessions?

My girlfriend of 10 years and I purchased the house that she grew up in from her father 3 years ago. He continued to live with us and paid $700 per month towards the utility bills from that point on. He did not sign any rental agreement at any time. He recently passed away a month ago, and his other daughter feels as though she is entitled to his possessions that he left behind, as well as the appliances and other items that were in the house prior to the sale to us. He had no will of any kind. Are the possessions legally mine?

Asked on August 14, 2011 Pennsylvania


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Sorry to hear about your girlfriend's father.

When someone dies without a Will, the rules of intestate succession determine inheritance.  Intestate means dying without a Will. 

Since you and your girlfriend had purchased the house with the appliances included, the appliances are fixtures which means they are attached to the real estate.  Therefore, the appliances are yours and your girlfriend's.  The other daughter has no claim to the appliances.

As for the father's possessions, under intestate succession, they would go to his surviving spouse.  If there isn't any surviving spouse, the possessions would be divided equally between his two daughters (I assume there aren't any other children or deceased children who had children of their own).  If there were more children than the two daughters, the father's possessions would be divided equally among the surviving children.  If there is a deceased child, who had children (father's grandchildren), the grandchildren would inherit their deceased parent's share.

As for other items in the house, it depends on what those items are.  If they are fixtures such as the appliances and are part of the real estate, they are yours and your girlfriend's.  If they are not fixtures but were included in the price of the house, same result.  If they are not fixtures or were not included in the price of the house and were the father's personal property in which he was the owner at the time of his death, they would be divided as mentioned above regarding the father's  other possessions. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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