What is Intestate Succession in Nevada?

Nevada Intestate Succession Laws

Generally speaking, intestate succession in Nevada gives the decedent’s property to the closest living relatives of the decedent, which tends to depend on whether the decedent was married or not at the time of death.

Intestate Succession – Married Couples

Intestate succession for married couples is a little messy because of the fact that Nevada is a community property state.  This means that each spouse is considered to own 1/2 of any property acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse actually paid for the property or whose name is on the title.  The only exception to this rule is for property received by one of the spouses as a gift or inheritance from a third party.  Such property is treated as “separate property” and belongs 100% to the spouse who received it.  Property owned prior to the marriage is also considered “separate property.”

So, under the laws of intestate succession, the decedent’s entire 1/2 interest in the couple’s community property is given to the surviving spouse.  This means that unless the decedent owned separate property, then the surviving spouse gets 100% of the decedent’s property –  while children, friends, and charities get nothing, even if the decedent would’ve wanted otherwise.

Separate property is generally split between the surviving spouse and the other nearest living relatives of the decedent.  More specifically:

  • If the decedent had no children, then 100% of the separate property goes to the surviving spouse;
  • If the decedent had one child, then the separate property is split equally between the child and the surviving spouse;
  • If the decedent had more than one child, then the separate property is split 1/3 to the surviving spouse and 2/3 to the children (shared equally)

Intestate Succession – Unmarried Individuals

If the decedent was unmarried at death, then the intestate succession rules are much easier to apply. This is because there are no longer different rules for community property or separate property to worry about.

Instead, we can just look at all of the decedent’s property and give it to the nearest living relative.  So:

  • If the decedent had children, then all of the decedent’s property passes to the children by right of representation (i.e. split equally);
  • If the decedent did not have children, then all the decedent’s property passes to the decedent’s parents, if they’re alive.  If they are not, the it goes to the decedent’s siblings;
  • If the decedent did not have children and does not have any living parents or siblings, then the property will go to the decedent’s next closest living relative.  To figure out the closest living relative, the court uses a chart of consanguinity;
  • Finally, if the decedent does not have any living family at all, then all of the decedent’s property passes to the state of Nevada.  This is known as escheating and is the worst possible outcome in the eyes of most people.

Exception: Property That Does Not Pass Under the Laws of Intestate Succession

It’s worth pointing out that not all types of property are covered by the laws of intestate succession. Certain types of property are not considered part of the decedent’s estate and, therefore, are not covered by these laws:

  • Property held in a living trust
  • Proceeds from life insurance
  • Bank accounts with a payable-on-death designation
  • IRA, Roth IRAs, and 401(k)with a payable-on-death designation
  • Vehicles with a transfer-on-death designation
  • Any property held as a joint tenant with right of survivorship or as community property with right of survivorship

These types of property will pass to the surviving co-owner (in the case of joint or community property) or to the designated beneficiary (in the case of payable-on-death designations) automatically upon death, regardless of whether the decedent left behind a valid will.

Step-children, Half-blood Relatives, and Non-citizens

Nevada’s laws of intestate succession include the following rules for step-children, half-blood relatives, and non-citizens:

  • Step children are not considered “children” of the decedent under Nevada’s intestacy laws and will not inherit.  Adopted children, however, inherit in the same way as biological children.
  • Half-blood relatives inherit in the same way as full-blood relatives.
  • Non-citizens inherit in the same way as US citizens.