Intestacy and What Happens If You Don’t Make a Will?

If you fail to make a Last Will and Testament or if you draft an invalid one, you will be declared intestate after you die. If this happens, the intestacy laws of your state of residence will determine who gets what from your estate. Your estate will go to probate and the court will appoint an administrator. An administrator is a legal term referring to a person appointed by a court to administer an intestate estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This person will settle debts; pay any necessary taxes and funeral expenses and distribute the remainder of your estate to your heirs in accordance with the state laws of intestate distribution. Sometimes the court will appoint a relative, but often, the administrator appointed to an intestate case can be a lawyer with little or no ties to the estate or to you.


The main purpose of intestate succession law is to allow for the distribution of the deceased’s estate in a manner that closely resembles how the average person would have written their will had they taken the time to do so or to do so correctly. While well intentioned, intestacy law in this respect is to a degree “guess work” and, as such, cannot always adequately reflect what you would have wanted. Most intestacy laws operate in a broad-brush fashion, and don’t deal with specific items. For example, you may have always meant your son to have your antique desk and your daughter to have your antique wardrobe. However, you postpone making a Last Will because you’re only sixty-two. Then you collapse one day, and never wake up. There’s no Will, so your administrator simply sells the house contents as a job lot to an estate furniture dealer, and pools the proceeds to be divided up later according to whatever intestacy rules apply. So it’s bye-bye desk, bye-bye wardrobe!


Making a valid Last Will is the best way to avoid intestacy.



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