Intestacy is the term used for someone who dies without having left a last will and testament. While this is the premise for a number of enjoyable books and movies, it's not a situation in which many of us would like to find ourselves – or leave our families. The big question is what happens when a person dies without having left a legally binding will?
Although specifics vary from location to location, the inheritance of a deceased person's estate usually follows along family lines, starting with the most direct relative. Spouses come first, followed by children and the descendants of the children.
When none of these exist, the inheritance goes the other way: up the family tree to parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins (again, the order varies depending upon the local laws).
However, this order of succession does not mean the inheritance will always be clear-cut and easy. There are often complications to the matter of the estate, the most common complications being past marriages, government and taxes, half-siblings, step-children, etc. In some cases where there is no heir, the estate may even escheat to the government. It's really no wonder that intestacy plays a role in so many stories.
The importance of having an updated, legally-binding will must be realized, as it is critical if a person wants to pass his or her legacy along. The process of writing a will is not terribly complicated, as long as you employ an attorney or legal professional to help. Don't assume your estate will pass simply and quietly to those closest to you; it's not always so straight-forward.
(Articles on this blog are provided for informational purposes only. Use of this blog does not provide or replace individualized legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, please speak with one of our attorneys, who can offer legal advice specific to your circumstances.)
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