The minimal estate planning protection everyone should have is a valid will. A will is a legal document expressing the wishes of a person regarding how they want their possessions disposed of after their death. Only you or an attorney can legally draft a will for yourself. However, wills that have been drafted by the individual are often incomplete or inaccurate, and are declared invalid. If the will does not follow state law, it may be void. An invalid will is worthless, as if the person did not have one.
If someone dies without a will their assets are distributed to their heirs according to a set of rules known as “intestate” succession. Intestate means someone died without having made a legally valid will. This way of distributing your assets may not be what you wanted. For example, a fiancé or significant other is not part of the intestate succession. They would not be protected or receive any of your assets.
When someone dies, their estate enters probate whether they had a will or not. During the probate process, a will is declared valid or invalid. Probate is also the legal process of managing and distributing the decedent’s estate. You may direct this distribution through your will. If no will exists, the property is distributed according to intestate succession, that is, to your closest living relatives (spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.). Probate is a time consuming and costly legal procedure. Planning your estate in advance can avoid the hassle and cost of probate.
If you would like to discuss your particular needs with Attorney Christopher E. Friel, please contact us today by calling 401-737-4200 extension 23.