Definition - What does Intestacy mean?

Intestacy or “dying intestate” refers to when a person dies without having a will. Even if a person dies and has actually drawn up a will during their lifetime, there can be various reasons why they would be considered to have died without one:

  • The will was not dated or not written properly.
  • The will was not witnessed by another person when it was created.
  • The will held the beneficiaries' interests as grossly unfair (such as leaving everything to one of four children) and to the detriment of one party.
  • No one can find the will.

There is a complex yet clear hierarchical procedure that determines what should be done and who should benefit in intestacy cases. If a person dies intestate, then jurisdictional laws will determine how the deceased's possessions (property and personal goods) will be handled/distributed.

Rules of intestacy are the regulations in place on a state level, which govern the administration of a person's estate when the person dies without a will. The intestacy rules decide who is able to inherit before or over another beneficiary.

Justipedia explains Intestacy

Most states allow for immediate inheritance by the surviving spouse; they would be the first to inherit all property that is owned jointly between spouses and 50% of all assets that are owned individually. In cases where there is no surviving spouse, the children of the deceased will inherit the possessions. If there are no children, then the state will look to other adult members of the family.

Over a set time frame, the state or government will look for the beneficiary as dictated in the intestacy rules. If no heirs or family can be found, the estate is forfeited to the government or local municipality, and the state can take control or possession of the estate.

However, the probate court is the deciding factor of the distribution. The court will appoint an individual, known as the executor, to control the estate and be responsible for disbursing proportionally to beneficiaries. The court may or may not observe the interactions of the executor, depending on the individual facts in a case.

Intestacy rules are generally quite complex, but exhaustive in nature in the sense that regulations dictate every possible eventuality that could transpire regarding a living beneficiary and a person who died intestate.

Share this:

Connect with us

Find a Lawyer