The Personal Representative

Intestacy - Dying without a valid will


Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of his or her enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration.

If a person dies intestate with no identifiable heirs, the person's estate generally escheats (i.e. is legally assigned) to the state government. The state is not the beneficiary of the decedents estate but the initial care taker of the property until the proper heirs (under state law) are identified.

State Laws of intestacy are patterned after the common law of descent. Property may first be allocated to a spouse, then to children and their descendants; if there are no descendants, the rule sends you back up the family tree to the parents, the siblings, the siblings' descendants, the grandparents, the parents' siblings, and the parents' siblings' descendants, and sometimes further to the more remote degrees of kinship. The operation of these laws varies from state to state.

The responsibility to properly distribute the property of an intestate decedent estate is bestowed upon the administrator (or personal representative) of the estate: typically the administrator is chosen by the court having jurisdiction over the decedent's property, and is frequently (but not always) a person nominated by a majority of the decedent's heirs.

The applicable intestacy laws are determined by the decedent's domiciled state of residence at the time of death. To review the decedents's governing intestacy laws and distribution allocations; visit here.

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