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What happens if I do not have an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2024 | Estate Planning

Dying without a will is called dying “intestate.” When a person dies intestate, they do not have control over how their assets are managed or distributed. Intestate can create many problems for your family and friends – yet, it is estimated that over half of U.S. residents do not have an estate plan made and could die intestate. 

There are many reasons someone would die without a will. For instance, someone could have an invalid will because of a legal error. Or, someone could have been in the estate planning process when they suffered a tragic accident. Many people likely die without a will because they are not aware they actually need to make an estate plan and do not know the dangers of intestacy. It is estimated that the largest cause of intestacy happens because people have not made time to make their estate plans. 

Understanding why you should avoid intestacy and create an estate plan can help. Here is what happens: 

Dying without a will: The intestacy process

When someone dies without a will, it becomes the responsibility of the state to decide how the deceased’s estate is managed. The state is responsible for assigning a representative for the estate. That person will take steps to settle the estate. After settling the deceased’s debts, the executor will distribute any remaining assets, securities, bank accounts and personal items to the deceased’s heirs according to a schedule set by state law — which may or may not reflect what the deceased would have preferred.

Benefits of having an estate plan

Avoiding intestacy is the best thing not only for a testator but also for their family and friends. With a valid will, the testator can decide how exactly their estate should be handled after they pass away. This can help reduce fights between family members who were under the impression they would receive something from the estate. Making a valid will can be difficult and legal guidance can help ensure everything is in order.