What happens when a person dies without a will or trust?

On Behalf of | Mar 4, 2023 | Estate Planning

Estate planning is something that adults of all ages in Delaware should consider, but many find ways to avoid the process for as long as possible. Some people wait for so long that they eventually die without an estate plan in place. As a result, those who are currently procrastinating about estate planning and those who are worried about what might happen when their parents die could benefit from learning about the importance of drafting a will proactively.

When someone understands the potential challenges that could arise if they don’t put testamentary documents into place, they will make more informed choices. If someone dies without drafting their own estate planning documents, their estate will be subject to Delaware probate laws. There are special rules in place for distributing someone’s property if they die without a will.

Intestate succession laws give the probate courts the authority to distribute certain property to family members of a person who has died. Typically, spouses and children have the strongest claims under intestines succession law in Delaware. The portion of the estate that goes to each party depends on whether the surviving spouse is a parent to the children or a stepparent.

If someone dies without a will and has neither a spouse nor children, then other family members will inherit their property instead. The courts will distribute assets to parents, grandparents and siblings. In the rare scenario in which someone has no surviving family members that the state can locate, their assets may become the property of the state.

Planning gives someone direct control

Intestate succession laws are very black and white and fail to address any unique needs that a family may have. One child in a family may have a far harder time earning a living wage than their siblings, for example, or a single adult estranged from their parents and siblings might rather leave their assets for a romantic partner or close friends rather than family.

Any adult can potentially take control over their personal legacy by drafting estate planning documents before they die. Talking to a lawyer about personal property and relationships can be an important starting point for those wanting to put together a proper Delaware estate plan.