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  1. #1
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    Default Do All Heirs Get Equal Shares of a Wrongful Death Award

    If there is a wrongful death claim, do all of the heirs of the deceased person's estate receive equal shares of the settlement or verdict, or is the award divided in a different manner?

  2. #2
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Do All Heirs Get Equal Shares of a Wrongful Death Award

    The division of wrongful death proceeds depends upon state law, and does not necessarily follow the laws of intestate succession; but the division of the proceeds of the wrongful death litigation is never presumptively divided equally between the heirs. Depending upon the full facts and case law, the division of the proceeds may be affected by the deceased person's will or the state's laws of intestate succession. Many states allow a court to divide the proceeds of a wrongful death case differently than would occur under the state's laws of intestate succession, based upon the facts and equities of the case.

    If all of the heirs are in the same class, and are similarly situated, then it could be that the court simply divides the award equally -- e.g., three adult surviving children, each living independently of the decedent, are likely to each receive one third. But when there are different classes of heir (e.g., a surviving spouse and surviving adult children), or the heirs are situated differently (e.g., three children, one of whom is a self-supporting adult, one of whom is a disabled adult who received financial help from the deceased parent, and one of whom is a dependent minor) the court may consider those difference when dividing the award.

    As these issues depend upon the facts of the case and state law, it is important for the legal heirs to discuss the claim and its likely ultimate division with the lawyer who is handling the wrongful death case on behalf of the estate.

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