Rhode Island Probate Attorney

Attorney Christopher E. Friel is an experienced probate court attorney who practices before the probate courts throughout the State of Rhode Island.  Attorney Friel understands and appreciates the difficulty of losing a loved one. "Estate Administration" is the legal process of handling decedent’s affairs. The settlement process differs depending on whether a will or trust was utilized to plan the estate, as well as the size and nature of the assets in the estate.  In instances when the decedent had no will or trust in effect at the time of his or her passing, the laws of the State of Rhode Island control the distribution of the estate.  

What Happens to My Estate if I Die without a Will or Trust?

Laws of Intestacy

If an individual dies without having an estate plan in effect, his/her estate will pass in accordance with Rhode Island's rules of descent.  According to Rhode Island General Laws, section 33-1-1, "[w]henever any person having title to any real estate of inheritance shall die intestate as to such estate, it shall descend and pass in equal portions to his or her kindred, in the following course:

  1. First to the intestate's children or their descendants, if there are any.

  2. Second if there be no children nor their descendants, then to the intestate's parents in equal shares, or to the surviving parent.

  3. Third if there is no parent, then to the intestate's brothers and sisters, and their descendants."

Furthermore, the law provides that "[i]f the intestate has no surviving parent, nor brother, nor sister, nor their descendants, the inheritance shall go in equal moieties to the intestate's paternal and maternal kindred, each in the following course: 
  1. First to the grandparents, in equal shares, if any there be.
  2. Second if there be no grandparent, then to the uncles and aunts, or their descendants by representation, or such of them as there be.

  3. Third if there be no grandparent, nor uncle, nor aunt, nor their descendants, then to the great grandparents in equal shares, if any there be.

  4. Fourth if there be no great grandparent, then to the great uncles and great aunts or their descendants by representation, or such of them as there be; and so on, in other cases, without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their descendants or such of them as there be. 

Rights of a Surviving Spouse

Rhode Island law does provide for a surviving spouse.  In particular, whenever the intestate dies and leaves a surviving spouse, the real estate of the intestate shall descend and pass to the surviving spouse for his or her natural life.  In addition to a life estate in the decedents real estate, a surviving spouse is also entitled to a spousal allowance pursuant to sections 33-1-6 and 33-1-10 of Rhode Island General Laws.   

Contact an Experienced Probate Court Attorney

Estate administration, whether administered through the probate court or privately administered via a trust agreement, includes valuing assets, determining how they are titled, gathering and paying estate debts (such as funeral bills, valid debts, administration costs, and taxes), and transferring net estate assets to designated beneficiaries pursuant to the terms of decedent’s will, trust, or laws of intestacy.  If you require assistance in the administration of an estate, contact Attorney Christopher E. Friel to discuss you matter at 401-737-4200 x23.