There are many potential issues that can arise if a testator passes away without having a valid will. While it may not seem like an imminent or urgent need, it is important to remember that a will provides a great deal of structure and aid to the family of the deceased as they go through the grieving and probate process. Without a will, the distribution of assets will be governed by State law and will not necessarily the wishes of the deceased. This is unfortunate and can also be the cause of strife and feuding between family member. For these reasons and others, it is wise to consult with a DC probate lawyer to discuss the preparation of a comprehensive estate plan and the writing of a will, sooner, rather than later.
What is a Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a document or an agreement that is signed by a testator that identifies what his or her wishes are for burial or cremation and provides for the distribution of their assets after their death.
The Disadvantages of Dying Without a Will
If a person dies without a valid will, then the District of Columbia laws of intestacy will be the default law to determine who the personal representative shall be and how a person’s assets will be distributed.
One of the primary disadvantages of dying without a will is that the laws of intestacy of the District of Columbia are the default rules that provide for the appointment of a personal representative and distribution of assets. Those default laws may not be consistent with what the decedent’s wishes for the distribution of his or her assets would have been.
The other primary disadvantage of dying without a will is that there may be ambiguity regarding who has priority to serve as the personal representative. For example, if an individual dies without a spouse but has three children, all three children will have priority. The ambiguity may result in family dispute.
Steps to Avoid Dying Without a Will
A testator or an individual can speak with an estate planning attorney who can help them review the need for a comprehensive overall estate plan and establish a last will and testament that expresses the wishes of the testator as to the distribution of their assets at the date of death and as to who the testator wishes to serve as their personal representative.
Contacting an Attorney
There is no bad time to contact an attorney about drafting a last will and testament. Creating a comprehensive estate plan that includes a last will and testament is something that is a benefit to anyone—regardless of age, wealth, or family dynamics.
A last will and testament often avoids the necessity of defaulting to the intestacy laws and it allows the testator to plan for his future while he has the capacity to provide for the smooth transition of his assets upon his death.