Dying without a will forces your family into a form of legal limbo known as “intestacy.”
Intestacy are the rules applied by the state government to bequeath your property to your heirs after your death. It does not take into consideration your desires and the unique needs of your family.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that states who are your heirs entitled to your property (your “Estate”) at your death. A will appoints an executor to manage your Estate after your death and to dispose of your property in accordance with your will after payment of liabilities, expenses of administration of the Estate, and taxes.
What happens if you die without a will?
In the absence of a will, resolution of who will receive your Estate and who will manage the Estate will take significantly more time and expense.
First, the Register of Wills or Orphans’ Court of the county in which you resided at the time of your death will choose who will act as administrator of your Estate.
Once the administrator is appointed, instead of your will determining who will receive your property, the intestacy laws of the state in which you resided at the time of your death will determine who receives your property. Further, the Orphans’ Court will require a formal written accounting by the administrator of the Estate to ensure that the administrator has properly handled the Estate and distributed your property. Before the Orphans’ Court issues an order determining who will receive your Estate pursuant to the rules of intestacy, the heirs will have the opportunity to object to the accounting and in such event there will have to be a formal hearing in reference to the accounting.
All of the foregoing will significantly increase the attorney’s fees associated with administering your Estate. Because the expenses for administering an Estate are paid, along with taxes and liabilities, before the Estate is distributed to the heirs, the longer the Estate takes to resolve, the less money there will be in the Estate for the heirs at time of distribution.
A will simplifies the administration of an Estate at significantly less cost and time than if you die without a will.