Do you know what "intestate" means?

It's a state that you don't want to die in. Dying intestate means that you've passed on to the great beyond without leaving behind a will or trust. In such cases, your friendly state government takes over and follows strict procedures. You might have preferred to leave everything to certain relatives, but the state will follow prescribed inheritance formulas. These formulas are designed to do what's right for the average person, but they're rarely right for every person.

Dying intestate often means that, not only does your estate end up in probate, but it may spend years there, as various heirs litigate. This is clearly an undesirable situation (unless you never really liked your family). To make matters worse, probate proceedings are usually a matter of public record, so any family fighting may become a matter of public knowledge. Yuck.

Have your will drawn up, even if you're not very old. For many of us, it will just cost a few hundred dollars, at most.

Learn more about estate planning at Estate Planning Links. Of related interest is info from the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the long but enlightening Funerals and Ripoffs. Also, check out our previous articles on how much funerals cost, what a will can do, and how to plan your will.