Serving Clients Throughout Wisconsin & Illinois 

Who Will Be Your Heir? Don’t Leave Room for Surprises

“Intestate” is the term used to describe the estate of someone who dies without a will or a trust. Each state has laws called “intestacy laws” that govern how probate assets are distributed, if someone dies without having a will, at minimum. These laws establish the inheritance hierarchy based on a person’s family structure. As explained in The Daily News’ article “’Are You My Heir?’-Who Inherits When You Die Without a Will,” all of your assets will pass to your next of kin, also known as your “heirs-at-law” or heirs in accordance to the state’s laws of intestacy.

Here’s one example: if you are married but have no children and no grandchildren, your estate will be passed to your spouse. If two people die and there are no descendants (children or grandchildren), their parents, if living, will inherit their assets. A child who is legally adopted has the same rights of inheritance as biological children. Children born outside of the marriage may not.

If a child should predecease a parent, the living descendants of the child (if there are any) will inherit their share. In some states, heirs are limited to family members who share the same grandparents. If your family is not geographically or otherwise close, you may have heirs you have never met.

Intestacy can become extremely complex, when there are children and grandchildren. Descendants inherit from their parents and grandparents in percentages dependent upon the total number of children and the number of children in each generation that follows.

If a grandfather has three adult children, two who are living and one adult child who has passed, then the estate will be divided by three—a third each to each of the two living children and the final third to the children of the third (deceased) child. The children of the deceased child are heirs, even if the parent has died.

Add non-marital children—children born outside of a legal marriage or step-children—and things start to get complicated. A court will have to determine the intestate inheritance, based on proof that the child is a descendant and if that relationship is established in a timely manner.

If the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate, that is generally enough proof of the relationship. It doesn’t matter if they have a close relationship or have never met. The same applies to marital children—whether they have been close and caring or are estranged.

It’s best to have a will or trust and an estate plan, so you can decide your heirs. You are also sparing your loved ones the emotional rollercoaster of family surprises. Make an appointment with our estate planning attorneys to take care of this important matter.


ReferenceThe Daily News (Sep. 7, 2018) “’Are You My Heir?’-Who Inherits When You Die Without a Will”

Get Help from a Wisconsin Probate and Estate Planning Attorney

The estate planning lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. We invite you to start a conversation with on of our Madison area estate planning attorneys.

Categories

 


Quality Counsel

Experience You Can Count On

What Sets Us Apart?

Our Philosophy
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Pursue Excellence
  • Teamwork
  • Innovative
  • Veteran Owned

The Stories That Matter

Read Our 5 Star Reviews
    [Matt] was very engaging and rephrased any questions we didn't udnerstand.

    “Matt was able to answer my questions without all the legal mumbo jumbo. He was very engaging and rephrased any questions we didn't udnerstand. Due to COVID pandemic, we were limited to a phone ...”

    - Steven
    [Matt] was very helpful...

    “He was very helpful in answering our questions and providing guidance that we understood.”

    - Troy
    He took the time to understand our goals and our family situation. He was friendly, thorough, and very knowledgeable.

    “What a great attorney! He explained everything to us in plain English, with no legal jargon. He took the time to understand our goals and our family situation. He was friendly, thorough, and very ...”

    - Mark
    Krause Donovan was wonderful...they asked all the right questions, were patient with our back and forth, and everything was wrapped up successfully.

    “My husband and I needed a will and turned to Krause Donovan for their help after the firm had invited us to a "what is estate planning all" about dinner/meeting. Having a will was something we knew we ...”

    - Kris
    Nelson was very understanding and put me at ease from the introduction. He thoroughly explained processes, answered all questions, took the time needed, and was detail-oriented.

    “I first met with Mr. Donovan this fall to discuss my estate planning. This is something a person dreads doing, but Nelson was very understanding and put me at ease from the introduction. He thoroughly ...”

    - Sherry
/

Take the Next Step

Schedule Your Consultation Today
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your address.
  • Please enter your city.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter your zip code.
    This isn't a valid zip cide.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.