Distribution of Wealth After Death
There are three ways to distribute estates after you or a loved one passes away.
Intestacy (No Will): If you have no will, your estate will go through the probate system (default scheme). Your estate will usually go to blood family first, which excludes step children and non-marital partners. If no family members survive you, your estate will escheat to the government.
Will: If you have a will, your estate will still go through the probate system. However, a will is a testamentary transfer of your estate and thus outlines exactly how you wish your wealth to be distributed after your death, rather than leaving it to the default intestate scheme.
Will Substitutes: These occur during a person’s lifetime and do not go through the probate mechanism because title has already been arranged. Examples of will substitutes are joint tenancy (this means that when both tenants are alive, they have joint title of the property, but on the death of one, the remaining spouse has full title with no need to go to a court to have the document changed), life insurance policies, trust, and a contract with a payable on death provision (e.g. employer distributes property).