General DefinitionAny part of the decedent's estate not validly disposed of by will.
Order of DistributionThe intestate share of a decedent's surviving spouse is:
(1) $50,000 and one-half of the remainder if there is no surviving issue of the decedent. Sec. 33-1-10(1).
(2) One-half of the personal property if there is surviving issue. Sec. 33-1-10(2).
Whenever any person having title to any real estate of inheritance shall die intestate as to such estate, it will descend and pass in equal portions in the following manner:
- To his children or their descendants, if there are any.
- If there be no children or their descendants, then to the parents in equal shares, or to the surviving parent of such intestate.
- If there is no parent, then to the brothers and sisters of the intestate, and their descendants. Sec. 33-1-1.
- To the grandparents, in equal shares, if any there be.
- If there is no grandparent, then to the uncles and aunts, or their descendants by representation, or such of them as there be.
- If there is no grandparent, nor uncle, nor aunt, nor their descendants, then to the great grandparents in equal shares, if any there be.
- If there is no great grandparent, then to the great uncles and great aunts or their descendants by representation, or such of them as there be; and so on, in other cases, without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their descendants or such of them as there be. Sec. 33-1-2.
When inheritance is directed to go by moieties to the paternal and maternal kindred, if there are no kindred on the one part, the whole shall go to the other part; and if there are no kindred either on the one part or the other the whole shall go to the husband or wife of the intestate, and if the husband or wife is dead, it shall go to his or her kindred in the like course as if such husband or wife had survived the intestate and then died entitled to the estate. Sec. 33-1-3.
If no person is entitled to inherit under Rhode Island law the property is treated as unclaimed property and will escheat to the State. Sec. 33-21-1.
Common Law or Community PropertyRhode Island is a common law, elective share state.
CapacityEvery person of sane mind and 18 years or older in age, may devise, bequeath, or dispose of, by his or her will. Sec. 33-5-2.
DraftingNo will is valid unless it is in writing and signed by the testator, or by some other person for him or her in his or her presence and by his or her express direction; and this signature must be made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time and the witnesses must attest and must subscribe the will in the presence of the testator, but no form of attestation will be necessary and no other publication will be necessary. Sec. 33-5-5.
BeneficiariesA beneficiary includes, in the case of a decedent's estate, an heir, legatee and devisee and, in the case of a trust, an income beneficiary and a remainder beneficiary.
ModificationsNo will or codicil or any part thereof may be revoked except as provided in Sec. 33-5-9 or by another will or codicil executed in the manner required, or by some writing declaring an intention to revoke the will and executed in the manner in which a will is required to be executed, or by burning, tearing, or otherwise destroying the will by the testator, or by some person in his or her presence and by his or her direction, with the intention of revoking the will. Sec. 33-5-10.
Naming of ExecutorUpon the probate of a will the probate court shall issue letters testamentary thereon to the executor named therein, if he or she is legally competent, and if he or she gives bond as by law required. Sec. 33-8-1.
If a person named as executor in a will is at the time of the probate thereof under the age of 18 years, the other executor or executors, if any qualify, must administer the estate until the minor arrives at full age, when, upon qualifying, he or she may be admitted as a joint executor of the will. If no other executor shall qualify, administration may be granted with the will annexed during the minority of the person named as executor and until he or she qualifies. Sec. 33-8-2.
If a person named as executor in a will has deceased, or is incompetent, or refuses to accept the trust, or neglects to qualify for 30 days after the probate of a will, or within 30 days after notice of probate, the court will grant letters testamentary to the other executors, if any are named in the will, who are competent and qualify; otherwise the court upon petition will grant administration on the estate with the will annexed to some suitable person. Sec. 33-8-4.
Submission of WillEvery person who has custody of a will must, within 30 days after notice of the death of the testator, deliver the will into the probate court which has jurisdiction of the probate of the will, or to the executors named in the will, who must themselves deliver it into court within 30 days after they receive the will; and if any executor or other person neglects, without reasonable cause, to deliver a will, after being duly cited for that purpose by the court, he or she may be adjudged to be in contempt and may be committed to the adult correctional institutions and will remain there until he or she delivers the will to the court; and he or she will be further liable to any party aggrieved for the damage sustained by reason of the neglect. Sec. 33-7-5.
A fiduciary nominated in a will may deliver such will to the probate court with an affidavit containing the following information, representations, and documentation:
- The date of death of the decedent accompanied by a certified copy of the decedent's death certificate;
- A representative that the funeral bill of the decedent has been paid, accompanied by a receipt;
- The names and addresses of the heirs-at-law of the decedent at the decedent's date of death; and
- A representation that the affiant has received no notice of the issuance of letters testamentary or letters of administration regarding the estate of the decedent, and that there are no assets of the decedent subject to probate. Upon receipt of such will and affidavit the probate clerk, upon being paid a fee of $30.00, will receive and keep the will and accompanying affidavit and give a receipt of the deposit thereof. Sec. 33-7-5.
NotificationsIf any of the executors named in a will are not parties to a petition for probate, the clerk of the probate court, upon probate of the will, must notify by mail the executors who are not parties and whose post office addresses are known or can be ascertained. Sec. 33-7-9.
Within 90 days after the admission to probate of any will containing a devise or bequest to any corporation or voluntary association, the executor or administrator or other estate fiduciary must mail by certified mail return receipt requested, a written notice of the devise or bequest directed to the devisee or legatee at the place where it is located, if the same is known. An affidavit of notice together with the return receipt must be filed in the probate court. Sec. 33-13-1.
InventoryEvery administrator and every executor, shall, within 90 days after his or her appointment or such longer period as may be allowed by the probate court, return to the probate court, under oath, a true inventory of all the personal property, both tangible and intangible, and of all claims, rights, causes of actions and other assets, other than real property, of the deceased, with an appraisement as of the date of the decedent's death. Sec. 33-9-1.
Elective Share, Exempt Property and the Family AllowanceWhenever the intestate dies without issue and leaves a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to a life estate in the real estate. Sec. 33-1-5.
If any estate, real or personal, be devised or bequeathed to a surviving spouse, the devise or bequest will bar the life estate unless the surviving spouse, within six months after the date of the first publication of the qualifications of the fiduciary of the estate, files in the probate court a written statement waiving and renouncing the devise and bequest and claiming his or her life estate in the real estate of the decedent. If any of this real estate is located in any city or town other than that in which the will of the decedent is probated, the waiver and claim must also be filed in the records of deeds in each city and town where the real estate is located. Sec. 33-25-4.
The clothes and household property of a decedent is set aside for the surviving spouse. Sec. 33-10-1.
The probate court will make reasonable allowance for the support of the family for a period not exceeding six months from the date of the death, having regard to the situation of the family and the value and circumstances of the estate. Sec. 33-10-3.
Debts and DistributionsIf the estate of a decedent is insufficient to pay his or her debts, after deducting the charges of administration, and any property as is set off and allowed to the widow and family, will be applied to the payment of his or her debts and charges in the following order:
- The necessary funeral charges of the deceased.
- The necessary expenses of his or her last sickness.
- Debts due to the United States.
- Debts due to this state, and all state and town taxes.
- Past and future child support obligations.
- Wages of labor performed within six months next prior to the death of the deceased person, not exceeding $1,000 to any one person.
- Proceeds due the Rhode Island state lottery.
- Other debts filed within six months of the first notice.
- All other debts. Sec. 33-12-11(a).
If there is not sufficient property to pay all the debts of any class, the creditors of that class must be paid ratably upon their respective claims; and no payment must be made to creditors of any class until all of those of the preceding class or classes have been paid in full. Sec. 33-12-11(b).
For 2020, an estate is required to file a Rhode Island estate tax return if it exceeds $1,579,922. Rhode Island offers a credit against estate tax of $69,515 in 2020 effectively shielding estates with assets valued at $1,579,922 or less. For 2021, the estate tax exemption is increased to $1,595,156 and the Rhode Island credit against estate is increased to $70,490. The credit will be adjusted for inflation in future years. Sec. 44-22-1.1(4). Above that amount, the estate tax is a graduated tax with a top rate of 16%.
Income Tax Charitable Deductions and/or Credits
Rhode Island allows a taxpaying resident to deduct itemized charitable gifts in the same manner as the IRS. Sec. 44-30-12.
Gift Annuity Requirements
Rhode Island, a "silent" state, does not specifically address charitable gift annuities.