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What does it mean to die intestate?

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Dying intestate refers to passing away without a valid will or estate plan. This situation has specific legal implications for the distribution of assets, guided by the state’s intestacy laws.

Understanding these rules can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Intestate succession in Virginia

When someone dies without a will in Virginia, their assets are distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, which are a default plan for who inherits the assets. The distribution typically prioritizes your close relatives, with your spouse and children first in line.

If you’re survived by a spouse but no children or grandchildren, your spouse inherits the entire estate. If you have children, your spouse shares the estate with them.

Your children typically inherit equal shares. If you have grandchildren by your child who passed away before you, those grandchildren would inherit their parent’s share.

If you don’t have a spouse or children, the estate goes to other relatives, like parents, siblings or nieces and nephews, in a specific order defined by law.

Complications of dying without an estate plan

Dying without a will can lead to complications such as:

  • Prolonged probate process: The absence of a will often results in a more extended and potentially more contentious probate process.
  • Unintended beneficiaries: Without a will, assets may end up with relatives the deceased person might not have chosen.
  • Legal challenges: Family disputes and legal challenges are more likely when no clear document outlines the deceased’s wishes.

Creating an estate plan ensures that your wishes are known and followed, offering peace of mind to you and your loved ones. Working with someone familiar with your wishes can provide the necessary guidance to navigate these complex matters.