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What happens if you die without an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2021 | Estate Planning

Estate planning is important but challenging. One reason for this is that it can be hard for people to talk about what will happen when they are no longer alive. The first step toward building an estate plan can be speaking with a trusted Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer who can fully explain the laws of the state and what may happen if one dies without an executed plan. Generally, when a person dies without a plan or will in place, the laws of the state will dictate what happens to their assets.

Intestate succession

The legal term for dying without a will is intestate, and the laws that govern this circumstance are called laws of intestacy or intestate succession. In Pennsylvania and many other states, property of an intestate decedent will pass to closely related family members first before moving to more distant relations. Spouses, children, and children’s descendants often benefit first. After, parents of the decedent, siblings, and siblings’ descendants may become beneficiaries.

Intestate succession moves up and down the branches of a family tree to find relatives for inheritance purposes. The problem with this system is that it may result in a beneficiary that the decedent did not want to receive a substantial bequest of property or assets.

Avoiding intestacy

The best way to avoid having one’s estate pass according to state laws is to make an estate plan that covers all of one’s assets and property. A will, trust, power of attorney and other devices can accomplish a person’s goals and protect their interests. Intestate succession does not have to happen; individuals can take control of their estates with planning.