Many people are under the impression that the property they possess is not worthy of an estate plan that includes a last will and testament. Unfortunately, when someone passes away and no valid will can be located, everything the deceased owned becomes the state's business. Below, find out why leaving a will is important for everyone.
Intestate and Probate
No matter what, probate is a likelihood regardless of the presence or lack of a will. Only those with extremely low asset levels are exempted from probate. When no will is found, the deceased is said to have died intestate. That means that the probate court will now make decisions about the affairs of the estate on the deceased's behalf.
What Is an Estate?
The word "estate" can be off-putting and lead some to assume that only wealthy people need an estate plan. An estate is just a word that means everything the deceased had possession of when they passed away. The largest part of most estates is the family home and other real estate. Other than that, the contents of bank accounts and investment accounts are part of the estate. Other common estate property includes vehicles, boats, furniture, precious metals, jewelry, art, and pets.
Intestate Probate Actions
Once it's determined that no will exists, probate steps in and appoints a personal representative or executor. This person may be a spouse or adult child of the deceased or it might be a trusted friend or lawyer. The personal representative works alongside the probate or probate lawyer for the deceased to keep assets safe and to follow the court's guidance on distributing assets.
Each state has succession rules. The surviving spouse often receives the entire estate when no will is present. With no living spouse, the estate goes to the adult natural-born children in equal measures. In some states, if the children are deceased but have living adult children, their share goes to them. The succession is extended till enough blood relatives are located and the estate is disbursed to aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
While all this seems like a handy way to distribute an estate, it takes away an individual's right to leave things to who they want. If you want a close friend to get a certain piece of jewelry, for example, you must have either a will or some other way of dealing with an estate like a trust. Get your will and other estate plans in order by speaking to an estate planning lawyer as soon as possible. Otherwise, strangers will be making some personal decisions for your family after you've passed away.