Intestacy occurs when a person dies without creating a Last Will and Testament or if the existing Will is ruled invalid. In both cases, the decedent will have no say in how his or her final affairs are handled.
If there is no valid Will, probate is necessary and may be quite lengthy. The probate judge will choose a personal representative, or administrator, to handle the estate settlement process. The administrator handles the same duties that would have been performed by an executor had you created a Last Will. The administrator will work with an attorney to settle the estate according to intestacy laws. When intestacy occurs, family members are more likely to disagree with who the court appoints as the administrator and decisions they make. These disputes can tie probate up for years.
Every state has intestacy laws. These inheritance laws govern the settlement of an estate that does not have a valid Will. Intestacy laws may differ from one state to another. If there is property in more than one state, then probate must occur in each state, and each state’s laws will determine the fate of the property in that state.
If you do not create a Will, or if you do but your document is not valid, state intestacy laws will determine your heirs at law. When multi-state property exists, different heirs may be eligible to inherit the property in each state, and they may receive different portions of property than other heirs at law. Other beneficiaries that you might have liked to bequeath property to may be left out.
If you are in a second marriage, are part of a blended family, live with a life partner, or have any other situation where your preferred beneficiaries may not be your heirs at law, it is vital that you make a valid Will. If you do not, your loved ones may be left without an inheritance.
Drafting your own Will is not a good idea.
Attorney at Law
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