Friday, May 20, 2022
Only 44% of Americans report having a will that describes how they would like their estate handled after their death. Without proper planning, intestate-succession laws designed in the mid-20th century will control what happens next.
In a majority of states, nontraditional families are hit particularly hard and can be thrust into legal limbo when a loved one dies. Intestacy laws largely recognize family based on biological relation or legal contract, which does not encompass modern families.
While there are a menu of ways to designate what happens after death, wills still garner a lot of power. Some experts have argued for making end-of-life planning documents more accessible, such as attaching such documents to income-tax returns. Another suggestion is for states to rewrite intestacy laws allowing for a broader definition of partnership. "As a kaleidoscope of new relationship structures enters the mainstream, we need to consider redefining family based on actions, not just legal status."
For more information:
See Michael Waters, “The Problem With Wills”, The Atlantic, May 17, 2022.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.