Intestacy is the state or condition of dying without a will. If someone in Nashua dies intestate, the New Hampshire state government will oversee the dissolution of that person’s estate. There’s an order to how that’s done and it begins with ensuring the debts are paid. After that, a process begins that the remaining assets are paid in order, beginning with a surviving spouse, if there is one.
If there is a surviving spouse, he or she will be first to receive the estate if there are no surviving parents or surviving children. The spouse will receive the first $250,000 of the estate (after any outstanding debts are paid), along with one half of the remaining estate if that spouse has a surviving child of both parents and if there are no other children. If there is more than one child, the spouse will then receive the first $150,000, plus one-half of the balance of the estate if the spouse has a child that is not the deceased’s. If there are surviving children that the surviving spouse did not parent, that spouse then receives $100,000 and one-half of the estate.
It sounds complicated and confusing, but the process is important and necessary (and completely avoidable) when there is no valid will.
If there remain assets after those conditions have been met, the remaining assets will then be divided between any children the deceased fathered or mothered, in equal shares.
If there are no children that are the deceased’s, the remaining assets will then pass to the parents, if they’re still living. If there are no surviving parents, the assets will then transfer to any siblings of the deceased. If there are no siblings who are still living, the next consideration is made for nieces and nephews of the deceased. This is done by representation, which means equal portions of what their parents would have received were they still living.
But what happens if it gets to that point and there are no survivors? If there are grandparents who are still living, the assets pass to them. If that’s not possible, the next stop is on the deceased’s paternal family. Specifically, the paternal grandfather. Provided they are not past the fourth degree of kinship, one half of the assets will then go to the paternal grandfather’s sibling’s children. The other half goes to the maternal grandmother’s sibling’s children. If that isn’t possible on one side of the family, it goes in its entirety to the other side. If that is not possible, a process known as “escheat” occurs, where the remaining estate goes to the state of New Hampshire.
Note, too, that any child legally adopted by the deceased enjoys the same protections and benefits any natural children receive after death. Remember, this is never ideal. Ultimately, everyone should want to ensure their estate passes to those they select. Also, keep in mind, there are no provisions for assets passing to best friends, fiancés, charities or others – New Hampshire keeps it within the family when possible. This is a very time consuming process; in fact, it can take a few years after your death before your estate is settled in its entirety.
New Hampshire has specific rules relating to the formation of a valid will. Failure to observe the formalities required by New Hampshire law could result in the will being deemed invalid, thereby causing the laws of intestacy to control who inherits the decedent’s property.
If you’re concerned about your own will, we invite you to contact our office today to learn more about how to avoid intestacy in Nashua, New Hampshire.