You have undoubtedly been told by well-meaning friends and family member how important it is to execute a Last Will and Testament. Unless you understand why that is so important, however, you may lack sufficient motivation to get started on your Will. The Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain what happens to your estate using the Indiana intestate succession laws.
Last Will and Testament Basics
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows the Testator (the person creating the Will) to communicate his/her final wishes regarding assets owned by the Testator at the time of death. A “testate” estate refers to the estate of a “Testator” who left behind a valid Last Will and Testament upon death. An “intestate” estate refers to the estate of someone who did not execute a Will prior to death. Your “estate” refers to everything you own, or have an ownership interest in, at the time of your death, including tangible and intangible assets as well as real and personal property. The “Executor” is the person named in your Will to oversee the probate of your estate. If a decedent dies intestate, any adult can volunteer to oversee the probate process. If the court approves the individual, he/she is known as a “Personal Representative” in most states. Finally, a “beneficiary” is someone named in a Will or trust to receive gifts or benefits from the estate of a decedent. An “heir” is someone who stands to inherit from an estate under the state intestate succession laws in the event the decedent dies intestate. If you die without a Will, your estate is an intestate estate that will be administered by a Personal Representative and only your legal heirs will inherit from your estate.
Dying Intestate in Indiana
If you leave an intestate estate behind, you are effectively telling the State of Indiana that you want the state to decide what happens to your estate assets when you are gone. The monetary value of your assets is not always what is truly important when it comes to the importance of executing a Will. You probably own sentimental items or family heirlooms that are priceless to you. Do you want those family heirlooms to be sold in an estate sale or given to someone who does not reassure them as you do? If the Indiana intestate succession laws dictate how your estate is distributed, only very close family members are likely to receive assets from your estate. Specifically, the Indiana intestate succession laws will distributed your estate as follows:
- Survived by spouse only – spouse receives the entire estate
- Survived by descendants only – descendants split the entire estate
- Survived by spouse and descendants from that spouse — the surviving spouse will inherit one-half of the estate and the children will inherit the remaining one-half.
- Survived by spouse and at least one descendant from a previous spouse — spouse inherits one-half of your intestate personal property and 1/4 of the fair market value of your real estate, minus the value of any liens or encumbrances on that real estate. Descendants inherit everything else.
- Survived by spouse and parents — spouse inherits ¾ of your intestate property and parents inherit ¼.
- Survived by parents but no spouse or descendants– parents inherit the entire estate.
- Survived by siblings but no parent, spouse, or descendants – siblings inherit entire estate.
- Survived by parents and siblings – parents and siblings inherit equally but a parent’s share must be at least ¼ of the intestate property
Dying without a Will means that more distant family members will inherit nothing from your estate nor will friends or charities that are dear to you. As both you and your estate grow you may need to expand your estate plan; however, for now, your Will provides all the protection you and your assets need.
Contact Indianapolis Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about dying intestate, or you are ready to get started on your Will, contact the experienced Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.