When someone dies, he or she is referred to as the Decedent. Decedents can pass testate or intestate. To pass testate means that the Decedent had an estate plan, such as a will or a trust. To pass intestate means that the Decedent did not have an estate plan.
Indiana law provides how an intestate estate is handled. The General Assembly has, through legislation, made its best guess at how a person who has passed without an estate plan would want his or her affairs handled. For instance, William dies; he did not have an estate plan; his wife, Mary, survived him. Mary and William married when they were both 18 years of age. Neither had been married prior to the marriage to each other. William and Mary had two children in common, John and Sam. Since William did not have an estate plan, the administrator of William’s estate has to look to Indiana law for purposes of deciding how to handle the estate. If William’s net estate (including after Mary’s spousal allowance) is $50,000, then this would be split between Mary, John, and Sam, with Mary receiving 50% of the $50,000,
John receiving 25% of $50,000, and Sam receiving 25% of $50,000.
For better or worse, Indiana law addresses how to handle all scenarios. It would be extremely unlikely (but possible) that an intestate person’s estate would all go the State of Indiana, as there usually is an heir in line to receive the estate pursuant to Indiana’s intestate laws.