Today’s Q&A on ElderCareMatters.com is about the legal term “Intestacy” – What is it?

Question:  My husband and I have heard that a Will is arguably the most
important legal document that the average person will ever sign. Why are
Wills so important, and what is “Intestacy”?

Answer:  If a person dies without making a Will he/she dies intestate. Without a Will, a decedent’s property will pass according to the State’s Intestate Succession Laws. 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… you may feel a little sick.

In Connecticut, State statutes provide that if a person dies intestate, and there are children that are the children of the decedent and the spouse, the surviving spouse will receive the first $100,000 plus one half of the balance of the intestate estate. The children will receive the remainder. For example, assume a $500,000 estate: The spouse will receive $300,000 ($100,000 plus half of the remaining $400,000) and the children will receive the remaining $200,000 in equal proportions ($100,000 each). Now let us suppose that there is only one child who is 18 years-old. Even a very mature 18 year-old may have difficulty handling a check for $200,000.

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 his/her money in a college education — good luck.

The rules are different if the decedent had children that were not children of the surviving spouse. In this case, the surviving spouse would receive one-half of the intestate estate, and the children would receive the balance. This solution seems to be based in logic. The state wants to make sure that the step-children of the surviving spouse are not taken advantage of by a person who is not related to them by blood. While this plan works in preventing the aforementioned problem, it still puts money into the hands of people who may not be ready to handle it. With a Will 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.

If there are no children of the decedent, but the decedent is survived by a parent or parents, the spouse does not receive the entire intestate estate. In this scenario the surviving spouse will receive the first $100,000 plus three-quarters of the balance, and the parents would receive the balance of the estate. 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 Connecticut Intestate Succession Statutes, by not planning for the disposition of your property 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 Will. Any other plan will fall short.

gguertin
George P. Guertin, Esq.
Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Recent Posts

Stay in Touch with Elder Care Matters

 Facebook  Twitter  Google Plus  Linked  Blogger

eNewsletter Sign Up

ElderCare Answers

If you need answers to your elder care questions, send your questions to us at:

Answers@ElderCareMatters.com

Answers are provided by our ElderCare Matters Partners, some of America's TOP Elder Care Professionals who have years of experience in helping families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care / Senior Care Services.

All Q&A's are posted on the homepage of ElderCareMatters.com

ElderCare Matters Articles

ElderCare Matters Articles are useful and up-to-date Elder Care / Senior Care articles that are provided by our ElderCare Matters Partners to help you plan for and deal with your family's elder care matters.

If you help familes plan for or deal with elder care matters, then you owe it to yourself and to families across America to become a professional member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance and to be listed on the many Elder Care / Senior Care Directories that are sponsored by this National Alliance of Elder Care Professionals.

ElderCareDirectories.com

For additional information about professional membership in the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, (including the many benefits of becoming one of our ElderCare Matters Partners) and to download an Application for your Basic, Premium or Partner Membership in the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, visit: ElderCare Matters Alliance.