To die intestate doesn’t mean dying in the neighboring state or dying without any assets. Dying intestate means to die without a valid will or a trust. A will is the legal instrument that tells the judge how the decedent wishes his/her property or estate to be distributed and who they would like to administer the estate. When someone dies intestate, the court will make those decisions for them. Proper estate planning is the best way to avoid dying intestate and the estate problems that come along with it.
For most people the word estate planning conjures up the term “will” or maybe “trust.” They think that it is only something done late in life to prepare for death. For someone to die intestate is the mark of someone who dies unprepared. This happens much more often than it should. The reality is that putting a proper estate plan in place can truly be beneficial for managing a person’s financial affairs and taxes throughout life. It really handicaps a person financially if they fail to put an estate plan in place.
Why People Die Intestate–Without Proper Planning
Let’s face it, if you ask people, most individuals figure they can do a better job of distributing their property and picking an administrator than the state can. So if this is the case, why do so many people die intestate? Some avoid the legal system because it is expensive and time consuming. Others think that if they don’t have a will they will avoid the legal system all together. Many don’t want to go to the effort to get their affairs in order and feel that they really don’t care what happens after they die. For most it is a matter of education. They really don’t understand the benefits that come with estate planning both during life and when they die, so they avoid estate planning out of fear and end up dying intestate.
I know it’s a hard decision for someone to make decisions regarding aspects of their estate plan. A woman came into my office to complete her estate planning ten years ago. I asked her who she wanted to be guardians for her children. She told me she would call me. I never heard from her. I had my secretary try to get the information, but the woman never responded. Ten years later she showed up in the office to finish her estate planning. Her children were raised and she no longer had to decide on a guardian.
We finished the documents and she will not die intestate, but I have wondered about what would have happened to her children if she hadn’t done this important work. If she had a hard time choosing guardians, could the judge have done better? Not only that, but this woman missed ten years of tax and financial advantages that having a good estate plan in place could have given her family.
It is important that everyone gets their estate planning in order. There are so many benefits. Not only do they avoid dying intestate, there is of course the peace of mind that being prepared gives. They will also have a better plan for living.