People die every day without a will or estate plan that distributes their wealth to their heirs. The reasons for this are many: Some people do not like to think about dying, others believe they have more time, and some simply do not think it is important or that they have enough in their estate to warrant the drafting of a will. However, it is important to understand what it means to die intestate, or without a will, and how it affects your estate and your heirs.
Dying intestate means to pass away without a will or estate plan in place. When this happens, the intestacy laws of your state and the state’s probate court take over the distribution of your estate to your heirs. The estate is the sum of all things that a person owned at the time of his or her death. This includes personal property, bank accounts, retirements funds, and any other assets. Any real estate owned as part of the estate is handled according to the state’s intestacy laws where the property is located. How an intestate’s estate is distributed depends on the status of his or her family at the time of death.
Dividing an Intestate Estate
The probate court will take over the distribution of an intestate’s estate and appoint an executor to handle all of the estate’s issues. Most states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code to determine how an estate should be divided in intestacy, but you should talk to a lawyer in your area to learn if your state’s laws differ in any way.
Typically, if a person dies intestate and has a spouse, the spouse inherits everything. If there is a spouse and children from that spouse, the spouse will inherit everything; however, if there are children from another partner or marriage, the spouse receives half of the estate and the children receive half. Any children from the current spouse would eventually split the half inherited from the intestate’s spouse. In situations in which there is no spouse or children, the children split it equally, and if a child has passed but has children, those grandchildren will receive the deceased child’s share. If a person dies intestate with no spouse or children, the parents receive the estate. If they are not living, the person’s siblings will divide it, and if they are not living, the sibling’s children will divide it.
For unmarried couples, dying intestate can be devastating for the surviving partner because they will not inherit anything from the estate. The entire estate will go to surviving family members. Finally, in situations in which family cannot be found for a person who dies intestate, the estate is given to the state.
Call an Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions about intestacy or would like to draft a will to help your family avoid any problems in the future, call the office or contact us today.