How do the laws of divide an intestate estate?
Do you really know what happens to your property if you die without a will? Some common misconceptions about what happens to your property when you die without a will, or "intestate", include having all of your property being given to charity or to the state. Another common misconception, with more serious consequences, is the belief that a surviving spouse is always granted all or substantially all of the deceased spouse's intestate estate.
In reality, much of the answer to these questions about the distribution of intestate property depends upon where you permanently reside and which of your family members are living at the time of your death, as these will determine which intestacy laws will apply in order to determine the proper order of intestate succession. Some other factors that affect your intestate estate's distribution include how the property is owned, where the property is located, and even the family relationship that your living relatives have with one another.
Making the answer to this question even more difficult is the fact that every American state has its own laws that determine who will own the property of every intestate decedent and none of the states follow the exact same system. What is possibly the most important factor to understand is that these intestacy laws apply to every person.
With each state having its own unique laws, generalized statements about the process are frequently inaccurate. The complexity of these laws also makes written examples difficult to understand, as well as inapplicable to most people. Although these laws apply to everyone, it is incredibly difficult to find real examples of how they are applied.
Numerous sites reprint the intestacy statutes, but even people who are familiar with the laws often have to sketch out diagrams to work with certain fact patterns. There are also many sites with generalized "what if" scenarios that discuss basic intestate distribution possibilities. However, these discussions don't address every meaningful "what if" scenario, much less every possible scenario. More importantly, statute reprints and generalized discussions don't perform any of the mathematical calculations.
Kurt R. Nilson's Intestacy Calculators™ are the first interactive programs that give personally meaningful examples of how the intestate laws operate by interpreting those laws based upon individual family and financial circumstances entered by the user.
The complexity of each individual Intestacy Calculator™ relies upon each state's individual intestacy laws. Some of the more interesting Intestacy Calculators™ are Arkansas, California, Missouri, and Texas. However, as none of the states have the same body of laws, none of the Intestacy Calculators™ are the same and it can be interesting to try various state programs just to see the differences.