Although we have all heard many times that an estate plan is important, many Kent residents still do not have one. Some people die without having a will, a condition known as intestacy.
When a person dies without an estate plan or a will in place their property is passed to their heirs according to state law. This is known as intestate succession. Basically if a person does not have an estate plan the courts will make one for them. The courts will usually distribute the assets according to how most people would design their will.
The 1990 Uniform Probate Code is the basis for many laws regarding asset distribution. Under this code close relatives receive assets before distant relatives. The surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents, aunts and uncles are usually the order in which the assets are distributed. If none of these people are available, the estate usually goes to the state.
A surviving spouse usually is entitled to the entire estate or the majority of the estate. If the spouse is no longer alive the children receive the entire estate. If the person is not survived by a spouse or children, his parents, followed by his siblings, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles. After all debts, taxes and administration expenses are paid the "net estate" is what is left for distribution.
An estate plan is important in making sure one's assets are distributed as the person intends for them to be. It can also help a family avoid probate and not have to worry about estate issues. A death is hard enough on a family but adding on legal and financial issues can be extremely difficult.