Unraveling Intestacy: Why It Matters in Estate Planning
Posted January 17, 2024
The term “intestacy” may sound complex, but its implications are straightforward and profound when it comes to estate planning. In this blog post, we delve into the concept of intestacy, exploring what it means and why it matters in the realm of succession and inheritance.
What is Intestacy?
Intestacy refers to the condition that arises when an individual passes away without a valid will or without leaving clear instructions for the distribution of their assets. In simpler terms, it is the state of dying “intestate” – without a legally recognized will in place.
The Importance of a Will
- Expressing Your Wishes: A will is a legal document that allows individuals to express their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after their death. It provides clarity on how belongings, properties, and finances should be allocated among beneficiaries.
- Avoiding Legal Ambiguities: With a will, there is a clear roadmap for the distribution of your estate. This helps prevent legal ambiguities, disputes, and unnecessary stress for your loved ones during an already difficult time.
Why Intestacy Matters
- State-Defined Distribution: In the absence of a will, state laws govern how the deceased’s estate is distributed. Each state has its set of rules, typically prioritizing close family members like spouses, children, and parents. However, this default distribution may not align with the decedent’s preferences.
- No Control Over Executor Appointment: A will allows you to appoint an executor – someone you trust to carry out your wishes. In intestacy, the court will appoint an administrator, who may not have the same understanding of your preferences, potentially leading to decisions you would not have made.
- Guardianship for Minor Children: For parents of minor children, a will is crucial for appointing guardians. In intestacy, the court will determine guardianship based on its own criteria, which may not align with the deceased’s ideals for the upbringing of their children.
- Potential for Family Disputes: Intestacy can lead to family disputes over the distribution of assets, especially when the default rules do not align with the expectations of potential heirs. This can strain relationships and result in prolonged legal battles.
- Unintended Beneficiaries: Without a will, assets may pass to unintended beneficiaries. This could include distant relatives or individuals whom the deceased may not have wanted to inherit a share of their estate.
- Complex Probate Process: Intestacy often leads to a more complex probate process. Probate is the legal process of validating and distributing an estate. With clear instructions in a will, this process tends to be more streamlined due to the enhanced clarity of your last wishes expressed within your will.
- Potential for Asset Freezing: In some cases, intestacy can lead to frozen assets, making it difficult for family members to access funds immediately. This can create financial challenges during an already emotionally taxing period.
Understanding what intestacy is and why it matters is a critical aspect of estate planning. By creating a will, individuals can actively shape the future of their assets, provide for their loved ones, and mitigate potential risks of conflict. The absence of a will leaves too much to chance, allowing state laws to dictate the fate of an estate. Estate planning is not just about the distribution of assets; it’s about providing clarity, preserving familial relationships, and ensuring that your wishes are respected even after you are no longer there to express them. So, make sure your wishes are respected and avoid headaches for your survivors by getting your estate plan done today. I am here to help, please call me.
About the Author:
Bill Hutcheson works with clients to ensure that their wishes are carried out after their passing. His experience includes drafting wills, powers of attorney, and living wills. Bill is keen on preparing a comprehensive estate plan that is custom-tailored for each client’s own unique situation, which he achieves through various non-probate planning tools. He often draws upon his experience and knowledge as an investment professional prior to his legal career to understand the non-probate instruments his clients readily have at their disposal in preparing a comprehensive estate plan. In addition to Bill’s guidance in estate planning, he also has significant experience in administering estates upon the decedent’s passing. Bill steers Executors and Administrators through the labyrinth of state and local statutes related to the administration process. Regularly, Bill ensures the estate’s assets are properly distributed, debts are paid, and taxes are filed. Bill and his team focus heavily on the timeliness of proper filings required by an estate’s Executors, Administrators, and Trustees, as well as ensuring they meet all of their fiduciary duties and standards. Lastly, when disputes arise amongst an estate’s stakeholders, Bill defends and/or pursues the rights of his respective clients’ positions related to the estate in question.
Our Office Locations
Our offices are strategically located throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
- Office 856.853.5530
- Fax 856.354.8318
- Office 201.843.5858
- Fax 201.843.5877
- Office 610.691.7900
- Fax 610.691.0841