A wills and trusts flowchart is more properly called an "intestacy flowchart," according to the Law Office of Anthony Nigro. An intestacy flowchart summarizes how the laws of the relevant jurisdiction may apply in determining who succeeds to the estate of a person who died without leaving an executed will or other estate planning documents to guide the distribution.
In the United States, each state has its own probate code, and these codes provide a variety of schemes for distributing intestate property, explains Lyster.com. In some situations, more than one state's laws may apply. This is because distribution of personal property is governed by the law of the state in which the decedent lived at the time of death, while distribution of real property is determined by where the property is located.
Generally, intestacy laws favor the decedent's closest relatives, with a surviving spouse often taking the entire estate, notes the National Paralegal College. Depending on the jurisdiction, however, if a decedent leaves behind both a spouse and living parents or living children, the distribution can be more complicated. In some states, the spouse and the decedent's surviving parents split the estate equally. Where there are living children, the distribution may depend on whether those children are also the children of the surviving spouse or are the issue of an earlier marriage or non-marital relationship.
The rights of adopted children, siblings and their lineal descendants, grandparents and more distant relatives who share in the distribution of an estate are also codified in each state's probate code, states the National Paralegal College. Because of these complexities, flowcharts summarizing state intestacy laws are not widely available.