What Does Dying Intestate Mean?
Most people understand that having some sort of an estate plan is a good thing. However, many of us do not take the first steps to get that estate plan in place because we do not understand the consequences of passing away without a will or trust (which is called intestacy).
If you die intestate, much (if not all) of your property will go through probate. Probate can be looked at as the court-supervised process to transfer assets after your death. What you owned, what you owed, and who got what can become a public record. Your mortgage company, car loan company, and credit card companies will all seek payment on balances you owed at the time of your death.
After that, state law will decide who gets what and when. For example, if your only heirs are your two children and you have not provided any instructions, state law will mandate divvying up proceeds equally. If one or both of these children are under the age of 18, the court will appoint a conservator to manage their money until they turn 18. The conservator can charge a lot of money for their services and can be a total stranger. When a child turns 18 he or she will gain full access to the inheritance – which is usually far too young to responsibly manage the inheritance. And if you die without a valid will, the court, not you, will decide who gets appointed guardian to raise your minor child.
An alternative to intestacy is a properly funded trust. Accounts and property owned by the trust are not subject to the probate process. In the trust, you will have named a trusted individual (trustee) to manage your affairs with specific instructions on how your accounts and property should be dispersed and when.
You do still need a will to get any accounts or property inadvertently or intentionally left out of your trust into the name of the trust. You will also still need a will to name guardians for a minor child.
The bottom line? A trust allows you to maintain control of your accounts and property through your chosen trustee, avoid probate, and leave specific instructions so that your children are taken care of.
Reach out to our office and we will put together an estate plan that works for you and your loved ones.