I recently handled the legal representation for the probate estate of a Boulder City resident who died with no Will or Trust to give direction about the disposition of his assets. This was despite the fact that he owned a bank account, credit union account and investment account with a combined value of over one million dollars.
When this occurs, the decedent is classified as “intestate” (dying without a will), and the state laws then determine who will inherit the person’s estate. These laws state that the “next of kin” will be considered the legal heirs who will receive the assets after a probate proceeding is completed. A surviving spouse will always receive all or part of the estate, and children are next in line. If there is no spouse, and the decedent had no children, parents come next, followed by siblings.
In the case I just handled, the closest relatives were several first cousins who each got an equal share of the money after payment of the fees and costs of probate. Of course, we will never know what the decedent’s wishes would have been because there was no Will. It must also be remembered that unmarried domestic partners who may have lived together for decades have no right of inheritance in Nevada unless they are named in a Will or Trust. If a person has no close relatives and cannot decide who to name as beneficiary of a Will, there are several wonderful nonprofit organizations in Boulder City who can put the money to good use.
Everyone who owns anything of value should at least have a Last Will and Testament. For those who also want to avoid the expense and delays of going through probate court, a Living Trust is by far the best alternative.
Bruce L. Woodbury is an attorney with the law firm of Jolley Urga Wirth & Woodbury. The firm has offices in Boulder City and Las Vegas. To contact Bruce, call him at 293-3674 or 699-7500, or visit his website at www.juww.com.