Dying Intestate is Free, but Is it Worth the Cost?
Intestacy is the status of the estate of a person who dies without having a Will. Not having a Will at the time of your death can be costly for your loved ones.
Your spouse may not be properly provided for. In the absence of a Will, the laws of intestacy determine who receives from your estate. If you pass away intestate and are survived by a spouse and children, your spouse will share your estate with your children, receiving as little as one-third of your estate. You can ensure that your spouse will inherit your entire estate by naming your spouse as the primary beneficiary in your Will.
Your special needs child may lose his or her government benefits. Government benefits that are available to special needs individuals are means-tested and may terminate if your special needs child inherits directly from your estate. Make sure your child is provided for with a supplemental needs trust in your Will and ensure that your child’s inheritance and government benefits are preserved.
Your heirs may fight over items of personal property. If you desire to direct specific items of personal property to certain individuals, it has to be done in your Will or in a personal property memorandum incorporated into your Will. The courts will not recognize your particular wishes absent a Will.
Your rights are surrendered to the courts. Preparing your Will permits you to name whom you want to serve as executor of your estate and a guardian for any minor children you may have. If you pass away intestate, the courts will appoint an administrator of your estate and a guardian for your minor children who may not be whom you had in mind.
Your estate may decrease in value. Dying intestate increases the likelihood of a prolonged estate administration, which can lead to higher administrative and legal fees. In addition, the administrator of your estate has fewer powers than an executor named in your Will would have. As a result, the administrator has less flexibility in dealing with assets from your estate, and this may result in loss of value or sale of estate assets at a liquidation price.
Your estate may escheat to the State. If you pass away without any surviving loved ones, your estate will escheat (“pass”) to the state. If you prepare a Will, you can name friends or charities as contingent beneficiaries if you have no surviving loved ones.
Estate planning attorneys have the requisite skills to counsel you and properly prepare personalized documents that carry out your wishes for protecting and transferring your estate when you die. If you are interested in creating or updating an estate plan, we at The Becker Law Firm would be happy to answer your questions and help you.