What is Intestacy?
When it comes to matters of the law, things can get misunderstood in a hurry. We’re here to help sort that out, after all, I’m the attorney and it’s my job to make things a bit more clearer for you. So let’s start by tackling this question we received recently.
Question: I’ve read a lot recently about the legal term “Intestacy”. What exactly does this mean?
Answer: If a person dies without making a Last Will & Testament, they die intestate. Without a Will, a decedent’s property will pass according to the State of Oklahoma Intestate Succession Laws O.S. 84§211-277.
If you are thinking that “intestacy” sounds like some sort of sickness, you may not be too far off the mark. When you see how the state distributes the funds of those who die intestate… it may make you feel a little sick.
Typically, when most people plan out their estate, they want all of their assets to go to the surviving spouse and not to their children. The thought is that the surviving spouse is in the best position to use the assets wisely for the benefit of the children.
In many scenarios it does not make sense to hand a large sum of cash over to a child or young adult. Imagine trying to convince an 18 year-old into investing their money in a college education — good luck.
If you don’t have a Will or a Trust, your assets are distributed pursuant to the State Statutes for Intestate Succession. The distribution depends upon whether you are married and if you have any children and if they are children shared by your current spouse or from a previous spouse.
If you don’t have a spouse or any children, then it depends upon if your parents are alive or if you have any siblings, living or deceased. With a Will or Trust based plan you can direct where your assets go, as well as direct appropriate measures to protect your children from the problems that come with receiving a large sum of money outright.
Furthermore, if there are no heirs to the estate, the decedent’s money, property, etc., will escheat to the state and the state will become the owner. It’s probably not a coincidence that you cannot spell escheat without “c-h-e-a-t.”
As you can see from the above sampling from the Intestate Succession Statutes, by not planning for the disposition of your property and assets, the state has a plan for you.
It should be no surprise that control freaks hate the laws of intestacy. It takes control (albeit control that was never exercised) of a person’s hand and vests that control with the State, who then applies cookie cutter solutions for unique situations. The only way to avoid intestacy is to make sure that you have a validly executed Last Will & Testament or a Trust. Any other plan will fall short.
Contact us for your free consultation to determine your needs.
We’d be happy answers any other questions for you here on the blog. Are there any other topics you’d like for us to address?