Next of kin in Pennsylvania is your spouse, child or closest living relative. If you die without leaving behind a will, then Pennsylvania follows next of kin laws to distribute your estate.
If the decedent has a surviving spouse and no living parents or descendants, then all of the estate goes to the surviving spouse. In situations where there is a living spouse and descendants, then an initial $30,000 and half of the remainder goes to the spouse. The descendants receive the other half of the remainder. This is only true if the decedent and surviving spouse are both the parents of the descendants. Otherwise, half of the estate administration goes to the descendants and half goes to the surviving spouse.
When a decedent doesn’t have a spouse or descendants, then all of the estate goes to their living parents. If the decedent has both living parents and a surviving spouse, then the spouse receives an initial $30,000 plus half of the remainder, and the remainder after this distribution goes to their parents.
Siblings, grandparents and other relatives
When there’s no living spouse, descendants or parents, then a decedent’s estate goes to their siblings. If none of these relatives are living, then grandparents are the recipients of the decedent’s property. Pennsylvania gives half to the paternal grandparents and half to the maternal grandparents. When one set of grandparents isn’t alive, their share of the estate goes to their grandchildren or their grandchildren’s descendants. It’s only in the situation where there are no surviving grandparents, grandchildren or descendants of the grandchildren that Pennsylvania will distribute the estate to aunts, uncles and their children. When there are none of these relatives living either, then the decedent’s estate goes to Pennsylvania.
In summary, the order of importance for next of kin in Pennsylvania is surviving spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, grandparents, children of the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and children and grandchildren of the aunts and uncles. State law may change over time, so it’s highly recommended that you write a will to ensure that your property goes where you would want it to.