Dying without a Will – Intestacy

A person who dies without a Last Will is “intestate.” When this happens, an Estate Will go through the process of “administration.” A personal representative, or “administrator,” will be appointed by the Register of Wills to manage the process. The state statute identifies who can serve as administrator, starting with the closest family members. The state intestacy law also sets forth who gets the decedent’s “probate” property. For example, if the decedent was married with children, the estate will be divided between the spouse and children. However, it is very common that the intestacy law results in an unexpected distribution. A person can avoid these issues by having an attorney prepare a valid Will.

What happens if the beneficiary in the Will is not living?

A Will should stipulate contingent beneficiaries in the event the primary beneficiaries are not living. Where possible, the next generation of the family can take the share of a deceased beneficiary, or the inheritance can be divided amongst the living primary beneficiaries. It is possible that, even with careful planning, there will be no living beneficiaries. The testator can provide for this circumstance and name a charity or similar perpetual entity. Otherwise, state intestacy law will govern the distribution of the estate.