Scary Financial Mistakes: Dying Intestate

Oct 30, 2019

By Jeffrey R. Wolfe, Senior Vice President, Manager of Wealth Planning Strategies

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As we come to the climax of the Scary Financial Mistakes series, you know how it’s going to end.  The young victim just escaped the monster, made it to the car, turns the key and . . . nothing.  Car won’t start, monster gets them, and moves on to the next co-ed.  Now, what if you found out that the reason the car didn’t start was because they didn’t do something completely preventable, like they forgot to put any gas in the tank?  Silly, huh?

Well, slightly less dramatic, but equally scary, is dying without a will, known as dying “intestate.”  When you die intestate you die without leaving any direction on how you would like your assets to be distributed after your death.  Unfortunately, this preventable tragedy is very common.  It’s so common that states have created laws that will decide where your assets go if you die intestate.  Typically, these state default distributions are not handled as many would like.  For example, for married couples with children, it is typical for intestate laws to leave just a percentage of assets to the surviving spouse, and the remaining assets to children.  This probably isn’t what most would intend.

Fortunately, you can escape this monster pretty easily.  There are many ways to avoid intestacy.  You can have transfer on death designations on your accounts, you can create and fund living trusts, or, you can simply create a will to direct the probate courts on how you would like your assets distributed upon your death.  The key is you must be proactive and affirmatively declare your intentions.

Make sure that when it’s time for your family to hop in that car that you’ve got it gassed up and ready to go.  Create an estate plan for yourself.  If you aren’t sure where to start, or if you need help with ideas, work with your Benjamin F. Edwards financial advisor, along with your legal advisor, to see what type of plan works for you.  By creating a plan, you can proactively control your legacy.