Dying Without a Will in Rhode Island

Laws of Intestate Succession in Rhode Island

Castle Hill Lighthouse in Rhode Island.

Copyright Nicholas Oleson / Getty Images 

When a Rhode Island resident dies without having made a last will and testament, the intestate succession laws, found in the Rhode Island General Laws, will dictate who inherits the deceased person's probate estate. Below is a summary of how the Rhode Island intestate succession laws will work in various situations.

Deceased Person Is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and/or descendants (e.g., children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren):

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants: In this case, the surviving spouse will receive a life estate in the deceased person's probate real estate and will inherit half of the deceased person's remaining probate estate. The deceased person's descendants will inherit the remaining ​probate estate.
  • Survived by a spouse and no descendants: In this case, the surviving spouse may inherit up to $150,000 worth of the deceased person's probate real estate and will receive a life estate in the remaining probate real estate. The surviving spouse also inherits $50,000 worth of intestate personal property, plus half of the balance. The balance will be distributed equally to the deceased person's parents if both are living, or all to the surviving parent, but otherwise to the deceased person's siblings.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse: In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit 100% of the probate estate. If there are children but no spouse, the children will inherit everything. If there are surviving parents, but no children or spouse, the parents will inherit the estate. Similarly, if there are surviving siblings but no children, spouse, or parents, the siblings inherit the entirety of the estate.

Deceased Person Is Not Survived by Any Family Members

If the deceased person is not survived by any family members and otherwise leaves no will, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the State of Rhode Island.

What Will You Inherit From a Rhode Island Intestate Estate?

What will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a Last Will and Testament and the relative was a resident of Rhode Island or owned real estate located in Rhode Island? Even if you determine, based on the information above, that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you might not inherit anything. Why? Because your relative might have left all non-probate property, or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate, which will make the estate insolvent.

If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in Rhode Island, then consult with a Rhode Island probate attorney to be sure.

Will You Have to Pay Taxes on Your Rhode Island Inheritance?

Rhode Island is one of a handful of U.S. states that still collect an estate tax, and these laws have changed over the past few years. In addition, your inheritance may be subject to an estate tax at the federal level. 

The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.

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  1. NOLO. "Intestate Succession in Rhode Island."

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