If you have yet to create an estate plan, you have surely had to listen to well-meaning friends and family members urge you to get started on a plan. They may not, however, have explained to you some of the reasons why having an estate plan in place is so vital to you and your loved ones. To remedy that, an estate planning attorney at Morris Hall PLLC explains three reasons why you don’t want to die intestate.
What Does It Mean to Die “Intestate?”
First and foremost, you need to understand some of the legal jargon related to estate planning. When someone leaves behind a valid Last Will and Testament (or a revocable living trust that directs distribution of decedent’s estate), the individual is said to have died “testate.” On the other hand, if a decedent failed to leave behind a Will, the individual is known to have died “intestate.”
Why Should I Avoid Dying Intestate?
To help provide the impetus you need to get started on your estate plan, consider the following three reasons why you don’t want to die without a plan in place:
- You allow the State to decide what happens to your assets. Whether you have already amassed a valuable estate, or you are just starting to acquire assets, the odds are very good that you care what happens to the assets you own. You may, for example, have family heirlooms that have been in the family for generations that you intend to pass on to someone specific. Or may you have a collection that you promised to a favorite niece or nephew. If you are a philanthropist, you may also hope to leave some of your assets to a charity that is close to your heart; or you might have strong religious beliefs and want a church or other religious organization to inherit the assets you own when you die. Regardless of how you wish to distribute your estate assets, you give up the ability to make those decisions if you leave behind an intestate estate. The state intestate succession laws determine how the estate assets are distributed. Those laws typically dictate that assets be passed down to close family members and only in the proportions established by the laws.
- It will take longer to administer your estate. One of the many advantages to creating an estate plan, especially a revocable living trust, is the ability to incorporate probate avoidance tools and strategies into that plan. Probate is the legal process that is generally required following the death of an individual. Probate will be costly and time consuming which is why many people actively try to avoid it. When an individual dies intestate, however, it means that no effort was made to avoid probate. Assets that could have been distributed immediately to the intended beneficiaries end up being held up in probate for months, even years sometimes.
- The possibility of disputes increases. Finally, leaving behind an intestate estate will increase the likelihood of disputes that could turn into prolonged litigation. When a decedent fails to leave behind even a basic Will, it is impossible to know how he intended to distribute estate assets. It also makes it impossible to know who he intended to oversee the administration of the estate. Heirs often fight over the assets and how the assets will be used. If estate assets need to be sold to pay creditors, or divided according to the intestate succession laws, heirs often disagree over which assets should be sold and how the assets are divided. Not only can these disputes be financially costly, but they can also cause a rift in the family that may never heal.
Contact a Morris Hall Estate Planning Attorney
To get started on your estate plan or if you have additional questions about estate planning, contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall, PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today. For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar.