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The complexities of dying intestate

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Estate Planning

If you pass away without a will, the state considers you to have died “intestate.” This means that the court will decide the distribution of your properties among your heirs. Depending on the complexity of your assets and the response of your beneficiaries, the probate process could get complicated and take months or years.

The court appoints an estate administrator

The court must appoint an estate administrator to distribute your assets formally and legally. The administrator has the same responsibilities as a will executor, such as collecting and preserving assets, paying outstanding bills and distributing properties to beneficiaries.

Typically, your surviving spouse or adult child petitions the court to appoint them as the administrator. It could get complicated when multiple family members want to serve as the estate administrator. In this case, the court will evaluate and select the most suitable administrator among the petitioners after a hearing. On the other hand, when no one is willing or appropriate, the court may assign a county administrator to take the role.

Distribution of assets follows intestate succession

The court will decide on the distribution of your assets following the intestate succession laws. If you have your own family, most of your estate will be distributed among your surviving spouse and children. Your surviving parents and siblings could also get a part of your estate. However, when you have no immediate family, the court will distribute your estate among your other relatives. In the rare case of no surviving relatives, your entire estate will escheat or transfer to the state. The court could not pass your estate to friends or charity.

An estate plan saves you from these complexities

Dying intestate presents challenges that could have further implications for your loved ones. A well-crafted estate plan could save you from the complexities of a probate process. It could give you peace of mind distributing your properties how you want them to be. While a will outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, other estate planning components could also take care of your loved ones after your passing. You could establish trusts to manage and distribute your assets to your inheritors. You could also specify your instructions for caring for your children or pets through guardianship. Consulting a qualified estate planning lawyer can help ensure that your family will follow your final wishes and minimize potential disputes.