Intestate Heirs: Who They Are and How Inheritance Works
Legitimate succession comes into play when:
- There is no will.
- The will is declared invalid.
- The will only disposes of specific assets, leaving others for legitimate succession.
- In legitimate succession, the deceased’s estate is distributed to relatives, starting with the closest, such as children and a spouse, and moving progressively to more distant relatives up to the sixth degree of kinship. If no relatives are found within the sixth degree, the inheritance goes to the State.
The degree of kinship is essential in determining who has a right to what. In the direct line, degrees are counted based on generations, excluding the progenitor. In the collateral line, degrees are counted from one relative to the common ancestor and then descending to the other relative.
Practical Examples of Kinship:
- Aunts and uncles are third-degree relatives.
- Grandparents, in relation to grandchildren, are second-degree relatives.
- Cousins are fourth-degree relatives.
If there is no will, the estate is divided according to the Civil Code’s rules. Common scenarios include:
- If there are only children: In the absence of a spouse, the entire estate is equally divided among the children.
- If there is only a spouse: In the absence of children, ascendants, and siblings, the entire estate goes to the spouse.
- If there are both children and a spouse: With a single child, they receive half the estate, and the spouse receives the other half. With multiple children, the spouse receives a third, and the children share the remaining two-thirds equally.
- If there are only siblings: Siblings inherit the entire estate, shared equally among them.
- If there are only parents: The parents inherit the entire estate.
- In cases where there are no immediate family members, legitimate succession extends to more distant relatives, or the estate may be claimed by the State.
Understanding legitimate succession is essential for both individuals creating a will and potential heirs, as it ensures that assets are distributed according to the law’s guidelines when a will is absent or invalid.