What is Intestacy?

State Intestacy Laws

Couple sitting with paperwork with a judge's gavel in front of them

The estates of people who die with no will in place are distributed according to what are called “intestacy laws.” Intestacy laws are state statutes, often decades old, which dictate how your assets are to be distributed, should you die without a valid will.

This estate planning scenario comes with many possible disadvantages. First, the inheritances handed out under the law may not match what the deceased actually wanted. Second, as the American Bar Association notes on its Web site, the process of intestate can be “expensive”.

Under intestate, the probate court must appoint someone to be the administrator of your estate, and the costs associated with this process are often greater than naming an executor in advance. These expenses come out of the estate of the deceased before any of the heirs receive anything.

There is no election for this option, because it happens by default for those who choose to ignore, or procrastinate, about the critical need for estate planning. If you do nothing, you will leave behind no plan on how to achieve your personal and family goals; your state legislature, not you, will determine your legacy. Thus, leaving you and your family with little, if any, control over the eventual outcome of things. 

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