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Estate Administration: What if David Bowie died without a will?

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2016 | Estate Administration

Estate administration can be seamless with the right estate planning.  With the recent deaths of rock stars David Bowie and Glenn Frey, of the Eagles and actor Alan Rickman, people may be wondering who will be inheriting the fortunes amassed during a lifetime of albums, performances and movies. 

While the media has only begun exploring the loss of these individuals, we’re likely to hear much in the coming months about who will be inheriting the estates of these people. Under Pennsylvania law in estate administration, the first step is determining if the decedent died intestate or testate, meaning without or with a will. Assuming the decedent died with a valid will, that document governs the distribution of the estate. If an individual dies without a valid will then intestacy law will address who inherits what from the estate. Under Pennsylvania intestacy law, 21 Pa. C.S.A. § 2102-2103, the estate will first pass to a spouse and/or child. If a person dies with a spouse and children who are also the children of the spouse, the spouse will inherit the first $30,000 from the estate plus half of the remaining estate. If the children of the decedent are stepchildren of the spouse, then the spouse and children split the entire estate 50/50. Of course, if someone dies with only a spouse or only children, then that particular individual or individuals inherit the entire estate. If the decedent dies without a spouse and children then the estate passes to his or her parents. 

If the parents have predeceased the individual then it would pass to brothers and/or sisters or nieces and/or nephews. Next in line for intestacy law would be grandparents, and finally uncles and/or aunts and their issue. If no such relatives exist at the time of the decedent’s passing, then the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania inherits the estate.

Looking at this from the perspective of David Bowie, had he died intestate in Pennsylvania his estate would likely be distributed as follows. 50% of the estate would go to his current wife Iman. Bowie also had two children, Duncan Jones, 44, with his first wife Mary Angela Barnett, and Alexandria Jones, 15, whose mother is Iman. Since both children are not Iman’s, she is not entitled to the first $30,000 from the estate and instead would simply take a 50% share. Duncan and Alexandria would then split the remaining 50% equally. As you can see intestacy law takes care of those closest to Bowie but would not provide for his first wife or any other family or friends.

If you have questions regarding estate planning and ensuring that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, or if a family member or friend has recently passed away and you need assistance administering his or her estate, contact the experiences estate attorneys at McMorrow Law, LLC.