Intestacy refers to the situation of such an estate of a person that dies without a will and owns property with a cumulative value greater than that of their unpaid debts. Therefore, a will that often only includes a portion of an estate is intestate. In each of these cases, the deceased’s property is also allocated by a probate judge.

Usually, property goes first to a surviving spouse, then to any children, then, following common law, to extended family and descendants. If there is no family, property usually returns to the state.

Understanding Intestacy

The laws of intestacy differ greatly by country and are relatively complex. Remember that some governments handle domestic partners differently or lack well-defined laws that clarify domestic partners ‘ rights, particularly same-sex partners. All registered intimate partners in a variety of nations are legally the same as spouses, but that isn’t everywhere.

Many countries have rules which prevent people from obtaining inheritance who have acted badly towards the deceased. For example, someone who is responsible for the deceased’s death, or who has not paid childcare for a child who died, cannot benefit from their deaths.

In general, courts seek to split the deceased’s real estate assets, life insurance income, shares, bank accounts and personal properties until all the property’s debts are paid out.

In general, state law specifies who is the personal representative or executor. The decision is made by a probate judge. In principle the first preference is a living partner. Domestic partners have the same rights in certain Jurisdictions as surviving spouses. Usually adult children are next on the chart. Having a personal representative call for a whirlwind of work in a short time. Often it is difficult, particularly when the squabble about the estate or the will of the beneficiaries is disputed. In fact, a personal representative is usually legally responsible by the beneficiaries for any charges of fraud or mismanagement.

Difficulties of Intestacy

Laws concerning intestacy simply seek to make the best of complicated circumstances. Think Pop icon Prince’s estate. Because the music artist died intestate and since they had rights to his extensive music collection as well as rights to his name and image, descendants still had not earned a penny of inheritance more than 2 years after his death.

In general, it is certainly necessary that you or a competent estate lawyer makes a will on your behalf to ensure that your relatives and loved ones receive the contents of your estate upon dying, and that the probate and intestacy process can be prevented because it will cause your loved ones and heirs to endure extra time, expense and anguish.

Key Takeaways

  • Intestacy occurs when a person dies without a will.
  • When this happens, the deceased’s estate is handed over to probate courts to identify beneficiaries and allocate assets.
  • In almost all cases, intestacy is best avoided. A will is perhaps the easiest way for people to direct who should inherit their assets.