You have probably been counseled by well-meaning friends and family members about the importance of executing at least a basic Last Will and Testament. Unless you understand why that is so important, however, you may lack the motivation to get started on your Will. With that in mind, the Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain what happens to your estate assets if you die intestate in Indiana.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
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. Although you may not realize it, there are several different types of Wills a Testator may choose from when creating a Will, the most basic of which is referred to as a Simple Will. Even a simple Will, however, can accomplish a great deal, starting with ensuring that the Testator does not leave behind an intestate estate.
Dying Intestate in the State of Indiana
In legal terms, if you leave behind a valid Will you are said to leave behind a “testate” estate. Conversely, if you fail to execute a Will prior to your death, you leave behind an “intestate” estate. 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.
You may not think you have enough of an estate to worry about how it is distributed; however, almost everyone owns at least some estate assets when they die. More importantly, the monetary value of your assets is not always what is truly important. Whether your estate is modest or excessive, don’t you want the opportunity to decide what happens to the assets you do own – and worked hard to obtain – when you die? Moreover, do you really want your 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 close family members are likely to receive assets from your estate – and you do not get to decide which ones they are nor what assets they receive. Specifically, the Indiana intestate succession laws dictate that your estate be distributed as follows, depending on who you leave behind:
- Children but no spouse. Your children inherit all your assets.
- Spouse but no descendants or parents. Your spouse inherits everything.
- Spouse and descendants from you and that spouse. Your spouse inherits half and descendants inherit the other half.
- Spouse and at least descendant from a previous spouse. Your spouse inherits 1/2 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. Your descendants inherit everything else.
- Spouse and parents. Your spouse inherits 3/4 of your intestate property and your parents inherit the remaining 1/4 of your intestate property.
- Parents but no spouse or descendants. Your parents inherit everything.
- Siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents. Your siblings inherit all assets.
The Indiana intestate succession laws dictate that more distant family members will inherit nothing from your estate nor will friends or charities that are dear to you. The best way to prevent that from happening is to ensure that you execute at least a basic Last Will and Testament.
Contact Indianapolis Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about what it means to die intestate, or you are ready to get started creating your Will, contact the experienced Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
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