You have undoubtedly been told by well-meaning friends and family members how important it is to execute a Last Will and Testament. Nevertheless, you have yet to take the time to create one. To help encourage you to get started on your Will, a Fargo estate planning attorney at German Law Group explains what happens if you die without one in place.
Testate vs. Intestate
Understanding some of the more important legal terminology is a good place to start. 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.
Therefore, 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.
At the time of your death you will leave behind an estate that is comprised of all your assets, including real and personal property, financial and investment accounts, life insurance and retirement accounts, and almost anything else of value. That estate must go through the legal process known as “probate.” Probate is required to ensure that a decedent’s assets are identified, located, valued, and ultimately passed down to the new owners.
Who Will Be in Charge of Your Estate?
Probating an intestate estate differs from probating a testate estate in several important ways, starting with who oversees the process. In Florida, the person (or institution) who is in charge of overseeing the administration of an estate during the probate process is referred to as the Personal Representative. One advantage to executing a Will is the ability to appoint someone to be your Personal Representative. If there is no Will, the court must appoint someone to be the Personal Representative
When You Die Intestate, Who Will Get Your Assets?
If you die without a Will, or intestate, the State of North Dakota decides who gets your assets. The North Dakota intestate succession laws will distribute your assets as follows:
If you die with:
- 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, and the spouse has no other descendants – your spouse inherits everything
- Spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship – your spouse inherits the first $225,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance while your descendants inherit everything else
- Spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse – your spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance while your descendants inherit everything else
- Spouse and parents – your spouse inherits the first $300,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance while your parents inherit remaining intestate property
- Parents but no spouse or descendants – your parents inherit everything
- Siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents – your siblings inherit everything
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have are ready to get started creating your Last Will and Testament, contact a North Dakota estate planning attorney at German Law Group by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.