As with most things, a will’s value is relative; it largely depends on your unique circumstances.
“Intestate” is the term used to describe the estate of someone who dies without a will. Each state has laws called “intestacy laws” that govern how probate assets are distributed, if someone dies without having a will. These laws establish the inheritance hierarchy based on a person’s family structure. As explained in The Daily News’ article “’Are You My Heir?’-Who Inherits When You Die Without a Will,” all of your assets will pass to your next of kin, also known as your “heirs-at-law” or heirs in accordance to the state’s laws of intestacy.
Here’s one example: if you are married but have no children and no grandchildren, your estate will be passed to your spouse. If two people die and there are no descendants (children or grandchildren), their parents, if living, will inherit their assets. A child who is legally adopted has the same rights of inheritance as biological children. Children born outside of the marriage may not.
If a child should predecease a parent, the living descendants of the child (if there are any) will inherit their share.
In some states, heirs are limited to family members who share the same grandparents. If your family is not geographically or otherwise close, you may have heirs you have never met.
Intestacy can become extremely complex, when there are children and grandchildren. Descendants inherit from their parents and grandparents in percentages dependent upon the total number of children and the number of children in each generation that follows.
If a grandfather has three adult children who are living and one adult child who has passed, then the estate will be divided by three—a third each to each of the two living children and the final third to the grandchildren of the third (deceased) child. The children of the deceased child are heirs, even if the parent has died.
Add non-marital children—children born outside of a legal marriage or step-children—and things start to get complicated. A court will have to determine the intestate inheritance, based on proof that the child is a descendant and if that relationship is established in a timely manner.
If the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate, that is generally enough proof of the relationship. It doesn’t matter if they have a close relationship or have never met. The same applies to marital children—whether they have been close and caring or are estranged.
It’s best to have a will and an estate plan, so you can decide your heirs. You are also sparing your loved ones the emotional rollercoaster of family surprises. Make an appointment with an elder law attorney to take care of this important matter.
Reference: The Daily News (Sep. 7, 2018) “’Are You My Heir?’-Who Inherits When You Die Without a Will”
“On the threshold of retirement, we finally decided to quit thinking we could self-prepare the requisite documents. We had previously had only a very simple will. We needed the necessary legal (including updated will) & health care docs but didn’t want to deal with the time & complication of legalese. Cindy made the process relatively painless. She took the time to explain and answer questions without trying to upsell services. We were done in 2 meetings plus the reading of emailed drafts. In addition to preparing the documents, Nelson Eldercare will be there when our adult children need advice on executing the plans we’ve put in place.So glad it’s behind us and would recommend Cindy and her helpful staff.”
Cindy and her company treat their clients like family. Nelson’s offers clear, direct, and honest guidance in planning for your families security and future. No one wants to actively sit down and make these decisions, but Nelson’s makes this process seamless. I was so impressed with their willingness to answer all questions big or small. So glad I made the decision have them help my mom and dad and now me. You can’t go wrong with Nelson’s Elder Care Law.
The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!
I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.
Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.