If you or a loved one passes away without a valid Last Will and Testament, intestacy laws, sometimes called succession laws, will be used to settle your estate. These laws, which are unique to each state, determine who inherits property when no Will is available to make the decision.
If you do not create a Last Will and Testament or your Will is deemed inadmissable by a court of law, all property in your state of residence and any real property located in other states will be subject to a court supervised probate proceeding in each state. The court will apply the laws of intestacy relative to its state of jurisdiction.
Intestacy laws not only establish who inherits, they also decide how much each person receives. When laws from multiple states affect an estate, different heirs may inherit the property in each location. In some cases, heirs you would have liked to include may receive nothing or heirs you would not have liked to include will receive an inheritance.
Whether you decease with a Will or intestate probate proceedings will be required. The court will appoint a personal representative or executor or executrix to administer your estate. The personal representative will work with an attorney to determine what assets are subject to probate and who the beneficiaires or heirs will be in each state where a probate may be required. This can be a lengthy process. During this time, family members may not agree on decisions made by the personal representative, which can slow the process down further.
Probate is a costly procedure. Costs include court costs, attorney fees, personal representative fees, publication fees, appraisal fees, tax preparation fees and real estate agent fees to name a few.
To avoid the concerns that are created by intestacy it is recommended that you work with a qualified estate planning attorney to create a Last Will and Testament. To avoid the costs and inconveniences of probate altogether ask a your attorney about the benefits of a trust.
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