The following are excerpts from Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. Please reference the full body of Pennsylvania’s probate and intestate laws for any changes to those laws that may not be reflected below.
You can also open the Pennsylvania Intestacy Evaluator℠ to see the distribution of a Pennsylvania intestate estate based upon any person’s unique family and financial circumstances.
2101. Intestate estate
(a) General rule.–All or any part of the estate of a decedent not effectively disposed of by will or otherwise passes to his heirs as prescribed in this chapter, except as modified by the decedent’s will.
(b) Modification by decedent’s will.–A decedent by will may expressly exclude or limit the right of an individual or class to succeed to property of the decedent passing by intestate succession. If that individual or a member of that class survives the decedent, the share of the decedent’s intestate estate to which the individual or class would have succeeded passes as if that individual or each member of that class had disclaimed his intestate share.
2102. Share of surviving spouse
The intestate share of a decedent’s surviving spouse is:
(1) If there is no surviving issue or parent of the decedent, the entire intestate estate.
(2) If there is no surviving issue of the decedent but he is survived by a parent or parents, the first $30,000 plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the case of a decedent who died as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a surviving spouse shall be entitled to 100% of any compensation award paid pursuant to the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act (Public Law 107-42, 115 Stat. 230).
(3) If there are surviving issue of the decedent all of whom are issue of the surviving spouse also, the first $30,000 plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate.
(4) If there are surviving issue of the decedent one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate.
(5) In case of partial intestacy any property received by the surviving spouse under the will shall satisfy pro tanto the $30,000 allowance under paragraphs (2) and (3).
2103. Shares of others than surviving spouse
The share of the estate, if any, to which the surviving spouse is not entitled, and the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse, shall pass in the following order:
(1) Issue.–To the issue of the decedent.
(2) Parents.–If no issue survives the decedent, then to the parents or parent of the decedent.
(3) Brothers, sisters, or their issue.–If no parent survives the decedent, then to the issue of each of the decedent’s parents.
(4) Grandparents.–If no issue of either of the decedent’s parents but at least one grandparent survives the decedent, then half to the paternal grandparents or grandparent, or if both are dead, to the children of each of them and the children of the deceased children of each of them, and half to the maternal grandparents or grandparent, or if both are dead to the children of each of them and the children of the deceased children of each of them. If both of the paternal grandparents or both of the maternal grandparents are dead leaving no child or grandchild to survive the decedent, the half which would have passed to them or to their children and grandchildren shall be added to the half passing to the grandparents or grandparent or to their children and grandchildren on the other side.
(5) Uncles, aunts and their children, and grandchildren.–If no grandparent survives the decedent, then to the uncles and aunts and the children and grandchildren of deceased uncles and aunts of the decedent as provided in section 2104(1) (relating to taking in different degrees).
(6) Commonwealth.–In default of all persons hereinbefore described, then to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
2104. Rules of succession
The provisions of this chapter shall be applied to both real and personal estate in accordance with the following rules:
(1) Taking in different degrees.–The shares passing under this chapter to the issue of the decedent, to the issue of his parents or grandparents or to his uncles or aunts or to their children, or grandchildren, shall pass to them as follows: The part of the estate passing to any such persons shall be divided into as many equal shares as there shall be persons in the nearest degree of consanguinity to the decedent living and taking shares therein and persons in that degree who have died before the decedent and have left issue to survive him who take shares therein. One equal share shall pass to each such living person in the nearest degree and one equal share shall pass by representation to the issue of each such deceased person, except that no issue of a child of an uncle or aunt of the decedent shall be entitled to any share of the estate unless there be no relatives as close as a child of an uncle or aunt living and taking a share therein, in which case the grandchildren of uncles and aunts of the decedent shall be entitled to share, but no issue of a grandchild of an uncle or aunt shall be entitled to any share of the estate.
(2) Taking in same degree.–When the persons entitled to take under this chapter other than as a surviving spouse are all in the same degree of consanguinity to the decedent, they shall take in equal shares.
(3) Whole and half blood.–Persons taking under this chapter shall take without distinction between those of the whole and those of the half blood.
(4) After-born persons; time of determining relationships.–Persons begotten before the decedent’s death but born thereafter, shall take as if they had been born in his lifetime.
(5) Source of ownership.–Real estate shall pass under this chapter without regard to the ancestor or other relation from whom it has come.
(6) Quantity of estate.–Any person taking real or personal estate under this chapter shall take such interest as the decedent had therein.
(7) Tenancy in estate.–When real or personal estate or shares therein shall pass to two or more persons, they shall take it as tenants in common, except that if it shall pass to a husband and wife they shall take it as tenants by the entireties.
(8) Alienage.–Real and personal estate shall pass without regard to whether the decedent or any person otherwise entitled to take under this chapter is or has been an alien.
(9) Person related to decedent through two lines.–A person related to the decedent through two lines of relationship shall take one share only which shall be the larger share.
(10) Requirement that heir survive decedent for five days.–Any person who fails to survive the decedent by five days shall be deemed to have predeceased the decedent for purposes of intestate succession and the decedent’s heirs shall be determined accordingly. If the time of death of the decedent or of a person who would otherwise be an heir, or the times of death of both, cannot be determined, and it cannot be established that the person who would otherwise be an heir survived the decedent by five days, that person shall be deemed to have failed to survive for the required period. This section shall not be applied where its application would result in a taking by the Commonwealth under section 2103(6) (relating to shares of others than surviving spouse).
(11) Intestacy following valid prior estate.–In the event of an intestacy occurring at the termination of a valid prior estate, the identity and shares of the intestate heirs then entitled to take shall be ascertained as though the death of the testator, settlor or grantor had occurred at the time of the termination of the prior estate.
(a) Spouse’s share.–
(1) A spouse who, for one year or upwards previous to the death of the other spouse, has willfully neglected or refused to perform the duty to support the other spouse, or who for one year or upwards has willfully and maliciously deserted the other spouse, shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the real or personal estate of the other spouse.
(2) A spouse shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the real or personal estate of the other spouse if:
(i) the other spouse dies domiciled in this Commonwealth during the course of divorce proceedings;
(ii) no decree of divorce has been entered pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. 3323 (relating to decree of court); and
(iii) grounds have been established as provided in 23 Pa.C.S. 3323(g).
(b) Parent’s share.–Any parent who, for one year or upwards previous to the death of the parent’s minor or dependent child, has:
(1) failed to perform the duty to support the minor or dependent child or who, for one year, has deserted the minor or dependent child; or
(2) been convicted of one of the following offenses under Title 18:
-section 4303 (relating to concealing death of child);
-section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children);
-section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children);
-or an equivalent crime under Federal law or the law of another state involving his or her child;
-shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the real or personal estate of the minor or dependent child. The determination under paragraph (1) shall be made by the court after considering the quality, nature and extent of the parent’s contact with the child and the physical, emotional and financial support provided to the child.
(c) Slayer’s share.–Any person who participates either as a principal or as an accessory before the fact in the willful and unlawful killing of any person shall not in any way acquire property or receive any benefits as the result of such killing, but such property or benefits shall be distributed as provided in Chapter 88 of this code (relating to slayers).*1
(d) Surviving spouse as witness.–The surviving husband or wife shall be a competent witness as to all matters pertinent to the issue of forfeiture under this section.
2107. Persons born out of wedlock
(a) Child of mother.–For purposes of descent by, from and through a person born out of wedlock, he shall be considered the child of his mother.
(b) Deleted by 1978, Nov. 26, P.L. 1269, No. 303, 1, imd. effective.
(c) Child of father.–For purposes of descent by, from and through a person born out of wedlock, he shall be considered the child of his father when the identity of the father has been determined in any one of the following ways:
(1) If the parents of a child born our of wedlock shall have married each other.
(2) If during the lifetime of the child, the father openly holds out the child to be his and receives the child into his home, or openly holds the child out to be his and provides support for the child which shall be determined by clear and convincing evidence.
(3) If there is clear and convincing evidence that the man was the father of the child, which may include a prior court determination of paternity.
2108. Adopted person
For purposes of inheritance by, from and through an adopted person he shall be considered the issue of his adopting parent or parents. An adopted person shall not be considered as continuing to be the child or issue of his natural parents except in distributing the estate of a natural kin, other than the natural parent, who has maintained a family relationship with the adopted person. If a natural parent shall have married the adopting parent, the adopted person for purposes of inheritance by, from and through him shall also be considered the issue of such natural parent.