This is an article from the law office of Parman & Easterday (https://www.parmanlaw.com/) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that we thought others may find helpful.
If you die without a will, you are said to have died intestate. Intestacy rules will apply in determining what happens to your money and property. There could be disagreements over the distribution of your estate if you die without a will. The value of your assets could also decline and your heirs could end up with large tax and administration expenses which need to be paid.
You do not have to or want to die intestate. Creating a will (or even a trust) is a simple and straight forward process. It is usually beneficial, in addition to creating a will, to establish a comprehensive estate plan using a variety of legal tools.
Consequences of Dying Intestate
The consequences of dying intestate can vary depending upon your situation. There are many downsides to dying without a will. Some include:
- Losing control over how your assets are distributed. If you die intestate, the laws of the state where you live will apply to determine who inherits your property. However, you may want a different distribution of assets than that provided by law. You need to have a plan in place to retain control.
- Family fighting. Without clear instructions regarding distribution of your money and property, your loved ones could end up fighting over family heirlooms and other items, resulting in a reduction in the value of your estate due to court costs and your family being torn apart at a time when they should be coming together.
- Reduced estate value. When you create a will, you name an executor, who is responsible for probating your will and taking care of your assets until they are distributed to the new owners. If you don’t have a will, you cannot name an executor. The Court must decide who should manage your property and the value of your estate could decline due to mismanagement or delays in distribution while this confusion is sorted out. A protracted battle over who inherits what could also reduce the value of your estate.
- Estate taxes. If your estate is subject to tax (currently this only applies to estates larger than $5.45 Million), you need an estate plan to reduce or avoid taxes. If you do not protect your assets from being lost or diminished due to taxes, your heirs could end up receiving far less because of a big tax bill.
- An uncertain future for children. One of the most important things you need to do if you are a parent is make sure your minor children are provided for should something happen to you. If you die intestate, it may be unclear who should assume guardianship of your children. Your children could end up being raised by someone other than the person you would have chosen had you taken the opportunity to do so.death.
These are just some negative aspects to failing to create a will and dying intestate. There may be other undesirable consequences that would apply to your situation.
How to Make Sure You Do Not Die Intestate
To make sure you do not die intestate, leaving your family with unpleasant consequences, reach out to an estate planning attorney. Everyone should have a will when they are over 18. You never know when an unexpected event will cause incapacity or death and by then, it is too late for you to control your legacy.