Next of kin in Pennsylvania are generally defined as the surviving spouse and relatives by blood of the decedent that are authorized to inherit decedent’s estate under Pennsylvania’s intestate succession laws.
Intestate Succession In Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Decedents, Estates, and Fiduciaries Code sets forth those persons who are entitled to an intestate share of a decedent’s estate and qualify as next of kin. The permitted intestate shares can be found in Title 20, sections 2102 and 2103 and are as follows:
Surviving spouse, no living parents or descendants
100% to spouse
Living children, no spouse
100% to children
Spouse and descendants (descendants are all also descendants of spouse)
Initial $30,000 to spouse and ½ balance of remainder; descendants inherit remaining ½ of intestate estate
Spouse and one or more descendants that are not also descendants of spouse
Spouse inherits ½ of intestate property, remaining ½ to descendants
Spouse and living parents
Initial $30,000 to spouse and ½ balance of remainder; parents inherit remaining ½ of intestate estate
Living parents, no descendants or spouse
100% to parents
Living siblings, no parents, spouse or descendants
100% to siblings
At least one grandparent, no siblings, parents, spouse, descendants
½ to paternal grandparent(s), or, if both deceased, to the children of each of them and descendants; ½ to maternal grandparent(s), or if both deceased, to the children of each of them and descendants; if both maternal or paternal grandparents deceased, their ½ goes to other side and descendants
Uncles, aunts and their children, and grandchildren, no surviving grandparent, no siblings, parents, spouse, descendants
As provided in section 2104(1) relating to taking in different degrees
No one listed above surviving
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Exceptions To Pennsylvania’s Intestate Succession Shares
There are some exceptions to the shares a next of kin is entitled to under Pennsylvania law, as follows.
Forfeiture of Spouse’s Share
A surviving spouse does not get an intestate share if they have “willfully neglected or refused to perform the duty to support the other spouse, or…has willfully and maliciously deserted the other spouse” for one year or upwards previous to the death of the other spouse. 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. §2106(a).
In addition, if the decedent dies during the course of divorce proceedings, the spouse’s intestate share is forfeited.
Forfeiture of Parent’s Share
A parent can also forfeit their intestate next of kin share under Pennsylvania law. Section 2106(b) states that:
Any parent who, for one year or upwards previous to the death of the parent’s minor or dependent child, has:
(1) failed to perform the duty to support the minor or dependent child or who, for one year, has deserted the minor or dependent child; or
(2) been convicted of one of the following offenses under Title 18:
>section 4303 (relating to concealing death of child);
>section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children);
>section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children);
or an equivalent crime under Federal law or the law of
another state involving his or her child;
shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the real or personal estate of the minor or dependent child.
If an intestate beneficiary next of kin participates in the willful and unlawful killing of the decedent, shall not inherit as the result of the death under Pennsylvania law. 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. §2106(c).
Five Day Survival Rule
Pursuant to section 2104(10), an intestate heir must survive the decedent for five days. If an intestate heir does not survive the decedent by five days, they are deemed to have predeceased the decedent for purposes of intestate succession and the decedent’s heirs shall be determined accordingly.
Does A Next Of Kin Have The Right To Dispose Of A Decedent’s Remains Under Pennsylvania Law?
If there is a surviving spouse, and there are no allegations of enduring estrangement, incompetence, contrary intent or waiver and agreement which is proven by clear and convincing evidence, a surviving spouse shall have the sole authority in all matters pertaining to the disposition of the remains of the decedent.
If there is not a surviving spouse, absent an allegation of enduring estrangement, incompetence, contrary intent or waiver and agreement which is proven by clear and convincing evidence, the next of kin shall have sole authority in all matters pertaining to the disposition of the remains of the decedent under Pennsylvania law.
“Next of kin” is defined in Pennsylvania Title 20, Chapter 3, §305 as:
The spouse and relatives by blood of the deceased in order that they be authorized to succeed to the deceased’s estate under Chapter 21 (relating to intestate succession) as long as the person is an adult or an emancipated minor.