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Law Lingo: Intestate

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by The Brown Law Firm, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain intestate.

Intestate is the term for dying without a legal will. Intestate can also refer to an estate for which a will was deemed invalid. If you die intestate, your estate will be distributed pursuant to the intestacy statutes of your state.  This means that your probate assets –will be distributed to your closest blood relatives.

The probate court appoints a specific individual, known as a personal representative, to handle the probate process. The personal representative acts in the same capacity as an executor of a will – the personal representative will pay all outstanding debts owed by the estate, make a list of all of the current assets of the estate, and then distribute the assets to beneficiaries.

If you do not have a will, but want to give some of your assets to a close personal friend, your friend will not receive those assets if you do not create a will. This is because the probate court will apply the laws of intestacy and your assets will pass to your heirs (spouse, children and blood relatives).

  • If there is a surviving spouse, the spouse may receive most, if not all, of the assets.
  • If there are biological children, they may receive a portion of your estate. If the spouse is no longer living, the assets may be divided equally among the surviving children.
  • Parents may also receive a portion of your estate if you have no surviving spouse or children.
  • If there are no spouse, no children and no parents, the intestacy statutes provide that your estate will pass to other surviving relatives, which could include aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.

Although unfortunate, most families have complicated relationships within them. Sibling rivalries, estranged parents, different belief systems, dissimilar lifestyles and many other situations can cause major rifts in family systems. The intestacy statutes do not take these issues into consideration.  If you want to protect your assets from passing to someone you do not have a solid relationship with, make an estate plan! Create a will or trust with the help of a trained professional so you can rest assured that your assets will end up where you want them: with your loved ones – be those family, friends, charities, etc.

Still confused by intestate or any other legal terms? Want to try to avoid this situation from happening to your estate? The Denver estate planning lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help. Contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to meet with our experts.