What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
Preparing an estate plan may not seem important, especially if you are young. However, having a plan in place in the unfortunate event of your untimely passing may make life for the family you leave behind much more manageable.
Each state has different laws on how the affairs of a person who died without a will are handled. There are, however, some underlying commonalities that may make you want to take the time to hash out a plan. When it comes to leaving your family without a plan to follow, your property and cash may wind up going to people you don’t even know.
When someone dies without a will, they are referred to as having died intestate. The first step in many states with intestacy laws is naming someone who will deal with the deceased’s estate. This falls to the shoulders of the probate court. There are typically lists of accepted individuals who can take the helm of an intestate individual. At the top of many of these lists are spouses or domestic partners, followed by adult children. If none of these are applicable, then the court will look further down the family tree to find someone to take care of things.
If the deceased were married, most courts would automatically pass a bulk of the estate to the surviving spouse. The marriage must be legal under the laws of the state. Domestic partnerships or common-law spouses are not always recognized. If the deceased had children, they would get a share of the estate. Depending on their ages, the money may be held by the spouse. In the case of blended families, the surviving spouse may get less money if the decedent had biological children with someone else. Stepchildren are also usually not recognized as heirs and will not get a portion of the estate.
Other Blood Relatives
In cases where the deceased was unmarried and had no children, the court may leave the estate in the hands of parents and siblings. If there are no qualifying individuals, the next will be other blood relatives such as aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Sometimes an estate passes way down the list to cousins if there is an accepted claim filed with the court.
The best thing you can do is create a will, so your wishes about what happens to your property after your death are followed. A will lawyer in can give sound advice and draft a plan that fits your needs.