What happens when someone dies without a will or other estate plan in place? Because many people don't take the time to deal with estate planning, this happens more often than you might think, so the courts can't spend time hearing arguments or evidence on what the person might have wanted. Instead, each state has a set of laws called intestacy laws to govern estate processes in the absence of a will or estate plan.
On the surface, this is a good thing. It means that something will happen with your estate should you pass away without a plan in place. Your estate won't just go to the state, either -- most state intestacy laws make provisions for heirs such as surviving spouses and children.
Intestacy laws are applied to every estate that doesn't come with a will or legal document, though, and they are applied in a one-size-fits-all manner. While the courts do have some leeway in certain aspects, they usually follow case law in deciding how estates will be administered, and that doesn't always line up with how you might want your estate handled.
If you have any special wishes for your estate or want to make sure certain heirs or loved ones are protected, then estate planning is a critical task. It's understandable that many people would put off estate planning. No one wants to think about the end of life, and the legal documents and requirements can seem daunting. With the right legal professionals on your side, however, the estate planning process can be easy and hassle free. We won't say the process will be fun, but it can be painless and completed within a relatively short time.
Source: Money Crashers, "Intestacy Rules & Laws – What Happens When Dying Without a Will," Mark Theoharis, accessed June 17, 2016