In cases where there is no will (intestacy) an administrator will be appointed by the court, and your property will be distributed to your "heirs at law." This means the court will follow a format prescribed by the state legislature that specifies who should inherit the property. The process is similar to a probate proceeding, but the heirs may or may not be the people you would have chosen yourself.

Under the intestacy statutes, only your relatives by blood or marriage may inherit from you. Your best friend, business partner, or domestic partner would all be ignored under these statutes (although in some cases a registered domestic partner may be included).