When someone dies without a Will in place, it is known as intestate. In this case, the state steps in and decides how that person’s estate and assets will be distributed. Dying without a Will can create a family feud where heirs and relatives could get locked into a legal battle seeking their share.
This is the legal procedure where the probate court would take charge of a decedent’s assets and decides who gets what pursuant to a statutory scheme. Typically, the assets – real property, money, investments – are divvied up and distributed in “succession,” by default: first to a surviving spouse, then children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and so on. Only blood relatives and spouses are entitled to the decedent’s estate.
The surviving spouse generally receives the largest share. In the case where there are no children, the spouse gets it all. If there are no surviving spouse or children, the estate would be split up among relatives.
If none of the descendants are eligible or there are no survivors to receive the estate, the state takes it – a legal process called escheatment. Also, under the intestate law, charities, unmarried partners, and friends are not entitled to receive anything.
Your Wishes Don’t Matter
If there is no Will or Trust in place, the state will distribute assets in accordance to law, despite what the decedent would have wanted their heirs to receive. Even if the person’s family knew their wishes, it doesn’t matter. Only a Will can legally list a decedent’s distribution of their estate.
You may want a particular person to have something special or a certain sum of money. You may want to leave something to a charity, church, or organization. Conversely, you may not want a particular family member to have anything.
None of that would not be considered in the intestate process. Again, the court would divide and disperse the estate through intestate succession.
You Should Have a Will
A Will is a legal document that spells out a person’s wishes and how their estate would be distributed when they pass. This allows you to specifically name family members, friends, and charities and what you want them to receive.
If you are a surviving spouse, you can name a guardian and/or conservator for your minor children. Also, you can name someone to care for your surviving pets. None of this is possible without a Will in place.
Avoid a legal hassle and the potential of creating a family division. Contact us at SKB Law for more information on creating a Will and estate planning.