When someone dies without a will, the impact on his or her estate depends on the state in which the decedent resided. A handy new intestacy calculator — the central feature of a Web site called MyStateWill.com — helps determine the outcome of intestacy on a state-by-state basis.
The calculator is the work of Kurt R. Nilson, a lawyer in State College, Penn. It is the outcome of more than 1,000 hours of legal research along with time for programming, design, implementation and testing.
As an example, take my state of Massachusetts. The calculator begins by asking for the value of my estate and whether I am married. I enter $500,000 (I wish) and select married. It then asks whether I have living children and how many (two) and whether I have deceased children (no). With this information, the calculator says my wife will receive $250,000 and each of my children will receive $125,000.
Of course, some states’ laws are more complex. Nilson says that among the more interesting are Arkansas, California, Missouri and Texas.
The site also includes an interactive summary of state laws. It shows you which states apply certain types of laws, such as giving community property to a surviving spouse. Another feature of the site is a federal estate tax calculator.