What does intestate mean?

“Intestate” is the legal term for someone who dies without a valid will or some other type of estate plan. If you die intestate, your state’s default rules for how your assets should be distributed are applied to your estate.

Who administers an estate that is intestate in Virginia?

When someone dies without an estate plan, there is no designated personal representative to administer their estate. So, the court appoints one for them. Typically, the court chooses someone who is next of kin and is willing and able to take the estate through the probate process. The judge appoints this personal representative, and they must take an oath to abide by the state laws as they administer the estate.

Who inherits if there is no will?

Again, the state steps in and determines who inherits according to the intestate rules. You can read through Virginia’s course of descents here.

Dangers of Intestacy in Virginia

While the intestate laws are necessary to take care of some estates, you probably do not want yours to be one of them. There are several risks that come with having the state administer your estate according to their rules, such as:

  • Your property may go to someone you do not wish to receive it.
  • The court may appoint a personal representative for your estate who you do not wish to be in control.
  • Family conflict is more likely to occur if your estate is intestate.
  • Your minor children’s care will be determined by a judge, instead of you choosing who you want their guardian to be.
  • The administration process after your death will most likely be more expensive and more difficult for your loved ones than if you had a will or trust.
  • Your personal representative will have to deal with more restrictions on how they handle your estate than if you had a will or a trust.

How to avoid Virginia Intestate Laws

If you want to avoid the problems that come with being intestate when you pass, you need to create a proper estate plan. A valid will or trust keeps your estate within your control instead of the state’s jurisdiction. Also, a properly set up estate plan helps you:

  • Protect and provide for your loved ones
  • Avoid conflict
  • Leave a legacy
  • Preserve special memories
  • Ease burdens related to your passing

Do you need to create your estate plan to avoid Virginia intestate laws? Call us today and let us help you get started.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.


Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate and Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.