Estate Planning For The Long Run

Estate Planning For The Long Run

Intestacy in Nevada

August 2, 2016


Intestacy is the legal term for when a person dies without a will. Generally speaking, when a person dies without a will, intestacy laws govern the disposition of that person’s estate at the time of their passing. Intestacy laws are essentially a state legislation’s attempt to determine the intended disposition of a deceased person’s estate, when that person otherwise did not make his or her intentions known in a will. However, intestacy laws cannot account for extenuating circumstances that are all too common in today’s world. As a result, intestacy laws often result in dispositions that were not intended by the deceased person. Intestacy administrations are also governed by a probate court, and the costs of probate procedures are often more expensive and time consuming than alternative methods of transferring assets. Below are some real life examples of how intestacy laws can result in unfortunate circumstances for a decedent’s estate and his or her intended heirs:

Unmarried Couples

Nevada does not recognize common law marriage. This means is that no matter how long a couple cohabitates, they will not inherit from each other’s estate, unless they get married or do some estate planning. We recently met with an individual (“John”) whose significant other (“Jane”) recently died. They lived together for several years, but did not execute a will or do any other estate planning. John fully expected to be the recipient of Jane’s estate because they were together for years and made their intent known to one another in the event one of them passed away. We had to explain to John that under Nevada’s intestacy laws, he was not entitled to inherit anything from Jane’s estate. Not only that, we had to explain that Jane’s estate would go to her intestacy heirs, who were estranged from her and had no relationship with her prior to her death. This was a difficult conversation to have because in reality, Jane fully intended for John to inherit her estate, and Jane did not intend for her intestacy heirs to inherit her estate.


Under Nevada’s intestacy laws, step-children do not inherit from a step-parent unless they have been legally adopted by their step-parent. Several years ago we met with two sisters whose step-father died. They were essentially raised by their step-father and thought of him as their father. Unfortunately, the step-father did not have any estate planning in place when he died. As a result, we had to explain to the sisters that they were not going to inherit anything from their step-father, because they were not their step-father’s legal heirs under Nevada’s intestacy laws. At the end of the probate proceeding, the step-father’s estate ended up going to distant relatives who had no relationship with the step-father during his lifetime.

Do-it-Yourself Estate Planning

Too many times we have handled the estates for deceased people who have prepared their own estate planning documents in order to avoid paying legal fees. Without question, every time we encounter this, the documents are either poorly drafted or invalid altogether. This has resulted in a number of situations where the intestacy heirs inherit all or part of the estate over the intended heirs that were named in the documents.  Needless to say, the real cost of these situations is not the legal fees that are necessary to handle the matter, but seeing the intended heirs unable to inherit due to intestacy laws.


When it comes to estate planning a little bit of planning can save a lot of hardship and money in the future. Intestacy laws are unforgiving to those who do not do any estate planning, or who try to do their own estate planning without hiring an experienced estate planning attorney. At Morris Estate Planning Attorneys, we can help you achieve your estate planning goals and ensure your estate does not fall victim to intestacy.