You need a will. It is that simple. Some people may say that they don’t need a will because it will all just “go to my heirs”. The Prince estate sheds light on the fact that determining who your heirs are is harder than it may seem.
The Prince estate has had two (actually 3 but two were combined into the one published case) Minnesota Court of Appeals decisions regarding the determination of Prince’s heirs. One case is published and the other case is unpublished. The problem is that in a state probate code the probate code may or may not specifically define how you determine parentage. Determining parentage leads to determining heirs. In many states parentage is established by a parentage act that is usually used for child support, custody and related family law issues. But a probate code might have a different system to determine parentage for probate purposes that is different from the paternity / family law system. In the Prince estate, the parentage act established that Prince had a father under the act. That father had 5 other children. But two other persons stepped forward to claim that the person listed as Prince’s father on the birth certificate was not the biological father and that they wanted to prove someone else was the actual biological father. So they wanted to argue that even though there is a presumed father under the parentage statute, for probate purposes they wanted to prove someone else was the actual biological father. The court of appeals refused to allow the appellants to try to prove there is a second possible father. The court of appeals examined probate law and how it interfaced with the parentage act and found that once the parent-child relationship is established under the two acts, the ability to prove different parentage by genetic testing would not be allowed.
The point here is simple. State laws and genetic evidence may not mix. Determining who an heir is may not be as simple as you might presume, especially when there is money to be inherited. While a will is not an absolute remedy to these kinds of family disputes, a will does provide more certainty to determine your heirs than relying on intestate laws. If you want to know who will inherit your estate, say so in will. Don’t leave such important questions to a complex set of statutes and the ever advancing world of genetic testing.
Of course, if you want lawyers to inherit a substantial part of your estate, go ahead and die without a will. Intestate estates can make a lawyer the most money.