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Dying Intestate




After our November blog, there was interest in learning more about situations in which there is no will to help guide the distribution of assets.


This month’s blog is designed to address those issues.


To start, dying intestate means a person dies without a valid will. In many of these cases, the person simply never created a will. In some cases, the person maybe wrote something down and felt it would be legally acceptable, but it did not meet the standards established by the State statutes.


When a person dies, the legal system steps in to ensure the property of the deceased person is distributed appropriately to the right heirs. If there is a proper will in existence, that document is submitted to the court. In those situations, the court will oversee the process and make sure everything is done according to the will.


If there is no will, the courts will take full authority over the estate and follow the guidelines that are legally established. These guidelines might not match the wishes of the deceased and/or loved ones and potential heirs, but the reality is that loved ones will have no decision-making ability with the case.


The court will appoint a personal representative, who might not even be a family member. The personal representative and judge will then distribute the assets according to the State’s guidelines. Even if it would have been your desire, the court will not direct any gift to your church or other charity. State guidelines do not allow for that.


The summary of this is that an estate with a will is required to go through the probate process. This is not a particularly enjoyable experience, but with the help of a good attorney it can be fairly efficient. Without a will, however, the process becomes more costly and considerably more frustrating.


In my experience it is painful for a family if their loved one did not create a will. At times, that inaction is due to ignorance or fear. Hopefully, with some education, no one will make the decision that a will is not needed. In a very positive way, consider your estate plan as your final loving gift to your family. 


To learn more about creating an estate plan, contact me at paul.snamiska@kmlhs.org. I’ll be happy to share information and resources to help you feel more comfortable about the process and create a plan that truly reflects your personal wishes.



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