What is an Intestate?
An intestate is how a person’s estate is called when that individual dies without a will in place. That means legal procedures in a probate court guide the divvying up of their estate, rather than that person’s wishes. An estate can also be deemed intestate if the will is found invalid.
Why intestacy matters
You probably want to leave a legacy behind. And a big part of that means making sure the people who matter most to you get what they need from your estate.
When you die in intestacy, though, that power gets taken away. You don’t get to make decisions about what happens to your assets because you would have had to make those choices before you died. Without anything outlining what you wanted, things fall to a probate court.
Intestate laws vary from state to state but, basically, dying intestate means a state-designated authority will make the decisions about what happens to whatever you leave behind. They’ll pay any of your outstanding debts and then decide how to divvy up what’s left. Usually, things get divided between your next of kin, like spouses and children. But people can file petitions to justify claims to your estate, making things even more complex here.
All told, dying intestate means that your assets are at risk of going to the wrong person.
Beyond that, intestacy usually costs a pretty penny between all of the legal fees, especially if people petition their claims. And those costs get pulled from your estate. That means that even if the probate court makes decisions that align with what you wanted, your beneficiaries will be left with less by the time all is said and done.
How to avoid an intestate estate
Dying intestate means friends and family who expect anything from your estate will have to spend time navigating probate court. And those individuals who do receive anything from your estate will get less because of the resulting fees.
To avoid this, you can do two things: establish a will and buy life insurance.
Developing a will can be a complex process that requires you to make important decisions about your legacy. It’s probably not something you want to rush.
Buying life insurance, though, can be much simpler. With a life insurance policy, you get to name beneficiaries who will receive your death benefit when you pass away. This essentially guarantees that specific people will be left with money when you die, even if you don’t have a will in place or things get complicated in probate court.