Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Degree-of-Relationship System

To distribute property when there are no first-line collaterals, a minority of states use a degree-of-relationship system.

Under a degree-of-relationship system, the estate goes to the relative with the fewest degrees of relationship.

E.g, a great-grandparent would be chosen over a first cousin because a great-grandparent only requires 3 degrees of relationship (all up), while a first cousin requires 4 (2 up and 2 down).

Degree of Relationship

Degree of relationship is a method of measuring how related people are by counting the number of parental links that must be traversed, up or down, to reach someone.

  • Parents – 1
  • Siblings – 2 (up to parent, then down to sibling)
  • Grandparents – 2 (up to parent, then up to grandparent)
  • Uncles/Aunts – 3 (up to parent, then up to grandparent, then down to uncle/aunt)
  • First Cousins – 4 (up to parent, then up to grandparent, then down to uncle/aunt, then down to cousin)
  • Great-grandparents – 3 (up to parent, then up to grandparent, then up to great-grandparent)
  • First Cousins Once Removed (either direction) – 5
  • Second Cousins – 6
  • Fifth Cousins Twice Removed (either direction) – 12

There is a chart on page 85.

There are variations on this, such as using degree of relationship but breaking ties with a parentelic system.