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What does it mean to die intestate?

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2024 | Estate Planning

New York residents may avoid estate planning for a wide variety of reasons, but the difficult and archaic-sounding terms involved can be one off-putting reason. “Intestate” is one of those terms. So, what does it mean to die intestate?

‘Intestate’ defined

Quite simply, to die intestate means that a person dies without a will. If a person dies without a will, then state law steps in to fill the void of directing how that person’s assets should be distributed. The distribution of those assets will proceed through probate court.

So, why is that such a bad thing? After all, state intestacy laws just direct that assets be distributed to the deceased person’s closest relatives – and isn’t that what most people direct in their wills if they have them?

Well, that may be the case, but there are plenty of people out there who have other ideas about how their assets should be distributed after they die. A whole range of potential factors could be involved in how a person decides who gets their assets – family dynamics, charitable causes to support, tax implications – the list goes on.

In addition, leaving all this up to the courts slows down the process and adds to the expense. These costs come out of the estate, meaning there’s less money to go around when it comes time to distribute assets to the heirs.

Even if the most basic will ends up distributing assets to the same people who would have received it through intestacy laws, it is always a good idea to have an estate plan in place. There is more to comprehensive estate plans than just having a will executed. Unless you want state law making the decisions in your place, be sure to evaluate your estate planning options.