How Does Intestate Succession Work In Connecticut?
As we get older we start to think about the need for certain life event documents such as a will. At the same time, many of us put off making a will, perhaps because we do not want to contemplate death, we do not think we have “enough assets” to justify even having a will, or just have not gotten around to it. Unfortunately, such attitudes often lead to delaying any discussion of a will until something unexpected happens and it is then too late.
But assuming the worst, what actually happens when someone dies without a will? Or what if their will is merely incomplete or invalid for some reason? How does the law actually decide who receives your property?
When a person dies without a will, the estate is called an “intestate”. This means that after that person’s death, his or her property will be distributed in accord with Connecticut statutes.
The Default Rules of Inheritance
Like probably all states, Connecticut has statutes governing what is known as intestate succession, i.e., cases, where there is no will or any property that belonged to a deceased person is not effectively disposed of by their will.
First, it is important to note that intestate succession only applies to probate assets. Not everything you own is necessarily a probate asset. For example, if you and your spouse co-own your home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship upon your death your spouse automatically becomes the sole owner, so the house itself may not be a probate asset. Similarly, any asset that has a “payable on death” beneficiary, such as some bank accounts, a retirement account, or life insurance, is not part of your probate estate.
As for how intestate succession itself works, that largely depends on whether you are married and have living children or parents. The simplest cases are: 1) Where you are married and have no children, your spouse inherits everything; and 2) you are not married but have children, your children inherit everything equally. Other scenarios are a bit more complicated. Under current Connecticut statutes:
- You are married and only have children with your current spouse – Your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate estate plus one-half of the balance, with the remainder divided among your children (or their descendants).
- You are married and had at least one child with someone other than your current spouse (like an ex) – Your spouse inherits one-half of the intestate estate; your children (or their descendants) inherit the other half.
- You are married and have no descendants but at least one surviving parent – Your spouse inherits the first $100,000 and 75% of the balance; your parent(s) inherit the remainder.
- You are not married and have no surviving descendants – Your parent(s) inherit everything.
- You have no surviving spouse, descendants, or parents – Your siblings inherit everything equally.
Contact Canton, Connecticut, Estate Planning Attorney Brian S. Karpe Today
Ultimately, intestate succession is not a substitute for careful estate planning. You have the right to decide how your property should be distributed upon your death. Making a will is not difficult, but it does require working with an experienced Canton estate planning lawyer to make sure it is done correctly. Contact the Law Office of Brian S. Karpe, LLC, today to schedule a consultation.