In the event that an individual does not leave a will to determine the division of their property and assets, their estate will go through the intestate succession process designated in their state. Intestate succession is a legal process that comes into play when someone passes away without leaving behind a valid will or other legally binding document dictating how their assets and property should be distributed. Instead, the distribution of assets is determined by the laws of intestacy in the state where the person passed away. The laws of intestacy establish a specific order of priority for the distribution of assets. Typically, a surviving spouse and children are given priority, followed by other close relatives, such as parents and siblings. If there are no surviving relatives, the assets may escheat to the state.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document dedicated to establishing and coordinating a person’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and property as well as the care and guardians of their minor children after they pass. A will is the most established manner of ensuring that an individual’s wishes regarding each of those issues are accurately and dutifully carried out following their passing. Wills are helpful for reducing conflict between an individual’s heirs, making sure that the division of assets is a smooth process, and easing tension.
Navigating the Inclusion of Friends in Estate Planning
Passing assets to friends and non-family members can be surprisingly difficult for a number of reasons. The current estate planning landscape is heavily skewed toward the distribution of assets towards family members and traditional heirs and does not always provide a straightforward path for those without children or spouses. As a result, some organizations suggest avoiding using wills for such transfers of assets altogether and instead giving the assets to friends while still alive and sound of mind so that heirs and family members cannot challenge the transfer in the future.
Another method of preventing unwanted challenges to will transfers is to explicitly note the omission of particular individuals in the will, effectively foreclosing challenges from those people. Another factor in ensuring that a will is faithfully carried out is naming a trustworthy executor of the will. The role of executor is far from honorary and carries significant responsibilities, time commitments, and liability. It is vital to ensure that the individual named to the role takes it seriously and has a clear understanding of the intent behind the will.
Additional things to remember when designating friends in a last will and testament include providing an up-to-date contact information list to ensure they can be reached, confirming compliance with international tax laws if the friends are located internationally, and ensuring that the will has clear instructions for each distinct individual so there’s no ambiguity about the division of assets.
Speak with a Boulder, Colorado, Estate Planning Attorney Today
Contact us for information about exploring trusts, trustee actions, and other estate planning services. Braverman Law Group is here to help clients with benefits planning, estate planning, and many things in between. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our trusted Boulder estate planning attorneys, give us a call today at (303) 800-1588.