Court HouseThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing how estate planning may help Hartford, Connecticut families impacted by COVID-19. The previous post provided an overview of the topics to be addressed throughout this series. In this post, we will explain what happens to a Connecticut resident’s estate if they pass away without a Will. Many people believe that Wills are only for wealthy people. It is important to understand, however, that Wills, Trusts and other estate planning documents can benefit every family. Our attorneys have experience with estates of all sizes and can recommend a plan that is right for you. The current COVID-19 crisis reminds us that putting off an estate plan can have a devastating impact on those we leave behind. If you need assistance, contact our office to speak with a Hartford lawyer.

When someone dies without a valid Last Will and Testament in the state of Connecticut then they are considered to have died “intestate.” When this happens the deceased’s assets will be divided in accordance with state laws. The person’s estate is administered through the probate process. The Court will appoint an administrator to identify the deceased’s assets and liabilities. After paying off the debts of the estate, any remaining probate assets will be distributed to the individual’s heirs as determined by Connecticut law. It is important to note that some assets, such as life insurance policies, joint bank accounts, or retirement accounts will pass to the beneficiaries designated in advance by the deceased. They will be distributed outside of the probate process.

It is not uncommon for tragedy to strike before a person prepares their Will. This often results in assets being distributed in ways that seem unfair to family members or that would be inconsistent with the deceased’s wishes. Disagreements between heirs commonly arise about which assets should be included in the estate and how assets are distributed to heirs through probate. Consider the following example. A married man dies intestate. He and his wife have no children together, but he has two young stepchildren. He also has three adult children from a previous marriage. Under Connecticut law, if a deceased person was married and had children from a prior relationship, the spouse inherits one-half of the intestate property and the remainder is distributed between the deceased’s natural children. One can imagine a situation in which the surviving spouse, stepchildren, and/or the deceased’s children may be dissatisfied with this result. This is especially true if the deceased has expressed other wishes but failed to memorialize them in a valid Will. Disputes not only complicate the probate process, adding to increased fees and delays, but can cause serious damage to family relationships. Our firm has experience representing families through the probate process and can help you understand how state law may impact an intestate administration.

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted many to prioritize their estate planning needs. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney to help ensure that your goals are accomplished and your interests are protected. If you need assistance preparing a Will or administering a probate estate, contact our office today to speak to a Hartford lawyer. We also service the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.