Sioux Falls residents are encouraged to begin the process of planning the dispersal of their estates relatively early in their adult lives. Yet despite the best efforts of estate planning experts, many American adults do not have a will (indeed, information compiled by Gallup shows that only 44 percent actually have such a document). The reasons why so many adults put off estate planning is unknown; the consequences of such inaction, however, are not. This may come as a surprise to some (who may believe that their beneficiaries are allowed to determine the distribution of their assets if no will exists providing such stipulations). In fact, state law is what dictates how intestate estates are dispersed.
Intestate is the legal term used to describe estates that are not governed by a will. South Dakota’s intestate succession guidelines can be found in Section 29A-2-102 if the state’s Codified Laws. Here, it says that the surviving spouse of one who dies intestate inherits the entirety of the estate if the decedent had no surviving descendants (or, if they did, the surviving descendants are also the descendants of the surviving spouse). If one left behind descendants that were not also the lineal descendants of their surviving spouse, the spouse would then inherit the first $100,000 of the estate. Intestate succession guidelines then dictate that remaining amount be divided equally between the surviving spouse and the descendants.
If one who dies without a will has no surviving spouse, then their estate passes on to their children, their parents, their siblings and then their grandparents (split equally between the paternal and maternal sides) in that order. No allowances are made for parties not related to the decedent either biologically of through marriage.