What Makes Up Your Estate?
Your “estate” is everything you own—all your property and property rights, even assets with loans against them. They don’t die when you do. They have to move into the ownership of a living beneficiary, because a decedent can’t own property.
A Will vs. No Will
Dying intestate—without a will—doesn’t mean that your loved ones will avoid a court proceeding. Intestate estates still require probate, but state law gets involved to determine who gets your property because you didn’t outline your wishes in a will.
The hierarchy in most states places surviving spouses first in line, followed by the decedent’s children, then parents, siblings and finally more distant relatives. Individuals who aren’t related to the decedent are left out entirely.3
Wills and trusts can be used to accomplish many goals, and they can be as flexible as your needs and wishes require. Ensuring that those needs and wishes are carried out requires careful planning in choosing the best trusts or the best provisions for your will.