Leaving Titled Property Without A Will or Trust

If you die without a will (called dying intestate) or trust leaving property with a title (such as a house or a car or bank account) in your name only, that property will have to be probated which means the Probate Court will transfer the property to a spouse or relative if a probate proceeding is started.

It is a common misconception that if you die without a will the State of Nevada gets your property. The State of Nevada only gets your property if you die without any next of kin coming forward. In that case your property escheats (goes) to the State. After that happens there is a six year deadline for next of kin to try and get the property back. See our section: Parent Dies, Nevada Inherits However, in the huge majority of cases involving a person dying without a will, the nearest relatives hire a lawyer to do what is called an intestate probate proceeding, and the property is distributed according the laws set out in NRS Chapter 134.

Nevada Law (NRS Chapter 134)

Here is a brief summary of Nevada law on this subject. This law is the same for all Nevada residents, whether they live in Las Vegas, or Searchlight.

NRS Chapter 134 deals with who get the property when a person dies without a will. "Intestate" is the legal term to describe dying without a will.

The separate property of a person who dies without a will is distributed as follows:

  • If the person has a spouse and one child, each gets half. N.R.S. 134.040(1).
  • If the person has a spouse and two or more children, the spouse gets a third. The other two thirds go to the children in equal shares, except that if one of the children has died, but left descendants, the descendants take the dead child's share. N.R.S. 134.040(2).
  • If the person leaves a spouse, no descendants, and at least one parent, the spouse gets half and the other half goes equally to the two parents, or all to the surviving parent. N.R.S. 134.050(1).
  • If the person leaves no descendants or parents, but is survived a spouse and siblings (brothers and sisters), one half goes to the spouse and the other half goes in equal shares to the siblings. N.R.S. 134.050(2).
  • If the person leaves no spouse or descendants, everything goes to the parents or the survivor of them. N.R.S. 134.050(3).
  • If the person leaves a spouse, but no parents, descendants, or siblings, the spouse gets it all. N.R.S. 134.050(4).
  • If the person leaves no spouse, parents, or descendants, the it all goes to the siblings, or if a sibling has died to that sibling's children. N.R.S.134.060.
  • According to March 5, 2015 opinion of the Nevada Supreme Court, In the Matter of the Estate of Robert C. Murray, Deceased..." a child is defined for inheritance purposes by N.R.S. Chapter 126, the Nevada Parentage Act, not by the definition of child given under N.R.S. 132.055. Essentially this means that a non-biological child who meets the Chapter 126 definition of a child, is a child for intestate inheritance purposes.

Additional rules for who gets what if a person dies without a will are found at other sections of N.R.S. Chapter 134.

It is very important to understand that these laws saying who gets what if there is no Will do not allow the probate judge to give any consideration to the relationship between the Decedent and the intestate heir as defined by these statutes. For example, Dad dies as a single man and leaves 2 adult kids. Kid#1 is totally rotten and has been abusive toward Dad his whole adut life and hasn't seen Dad for 15 years prior to Dad's death. Kid#2 had a great relationship with Dad and brought great joy to Dad's life. But if Dad didn't leave a Will, both kids inherit equally. 

Special Preference for Minors & Spouse If The Estate Does Not Exceed $100,000

However, if the gross value of the estate, after deducting mortgages and other security interests, does not exceed $100,000, special preference is given to minor children and/or the surviving spouse regardless of whether or not there is a will. N.R.S. 146.070 in these cases can trump the above statutes as well at the right of estate creditors. We can say that in Clark County (which includes Las Vegas, Boulder City, Henderson and North Las Vegas) the special provisions for minor children and/or the surviving spouse do not depend on how poor or how wealthy the minor children or surviving spouse are. Likewise, N.R.S. 146.050 provides homestead protection to surviving spouses and minor children.

Property Goes To the State of Nevada (Escheat)

If a person dies without a will, their property will only go the State of Nevada if no surviving spouse or relative comes forward to claim it. N.R.S. 134.120. (That process is called escheat.) Only once in our many years of experience as lawyers have we been asked to assist a client in claiming money that had escheated to the State of Nevada. There is a six year statute of limitations for claiming the money; the process is not difficult but somewhat time consuming.