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Understanding intestate succession

You have probably been told by many in Roswell that it is never too early to start your estate planning. Considering the potential of your death is never a fun exercise, yet as we here at the Sanders Law Firm tell clients, estate planning is more for your beneficiaries then it is for you. The fear is that they will dispute the ownership of your estate, and that your death might prove to divisive amongst your family members. This inevitably prompts the question of what happens if you die without a will. 

The state has created its own guidelines to deal with the estates of those who die "intestate" (without a will). These can be found in Section 45-2-102 of New Mexico's Uniform Probate Code. Per the states intestate succession rules, your surviving spouse will receive the entire amount of your estate if you have no surviving issue ("issue" being your direct descendants). If you do have children (or grandchildren), your spouse's share of the estate is reduced to one-fourth and remaining portion is distributed amongst your surviving issue equally (your surviving spouse is also entitled to your portion of any community property you shared together). 

If you have no surviving spouse, then the order of intestate succession proceeds as follows: 

  • Your issue
  • Your parents 
  • Your siblings (and their descendants)
  • Your grandparents 
  • Any issue of your deceased spouse that are not related to you biologically 

You might think that this pattern of succession is fine as long as it keeps your assets going back to the state, yet consider this: If you have any friends, business associations or charitable organizations that you would like included amongst your beneficiaries, intestate succession guidelines leaves no room for them. 

More information on estate administration issues can be found here on our site. 

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