The statement, “She or he died intestate” means they left this earth without preparing instructions to those who succeed them, those who will be called on to “settle their affairs”. They release everything that was of worth to them to the state to dispose of according to the state’s laws of intestate succession. Aside from the issue of the impersonal handling of their potential legacy, intestacy imposes a high cost and a lengthy time for the state to conclude this task. This can result in eroding a significant portion of the estate that could have benefited persons or purposes they valued and / or awarding gifts from their life’s efforts in ways they did not intend and would not have sanctioned.
Infamous in the annals of estate planning law, is the settling of the intestate estates of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean; both dying suddenly, both without a trust or a will, both with extremely protracted legal struggles over settling their estates according to the laws of intestacy for their states. For their celebrity status it makes for entertaining reading. But it also makes for informative reading on the ways that handing over your possessions to the state to determine distribution could go awry. The results likely not being the outcome either of those individuals would have desired. Adding to that, at an exorbitant cost to the estate and an extremely long time to settle.