What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

Last Will and Testament

Have you created a Will yet? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. According to a Gallup poll, only 44% of Americans had a Last Will and Testament in 2016.

Only 44% of Americans have a Last Will and Testament, according to @Gallup. Click To Tweet

A Will is a legal document that specifies how your assets and property will be distributed after you pass away. For instance, you can use it to give specific gifts to individuals or organizations (including charities). To ensure all of your instructions are carried out properly, you appoint an executor to administer your estate.

Why Should I Make a Will?

Many people assume creating a Last Will is a task to be done near the end of life, but there are some compelling reasons to make your Will now, particularly if you have children who are still minors. If you die without a Will, the state will appoint a guardian who may not serve their best interests as well as your choice of guardian might have.

A Will specifies who will inherit from you—and allows you to disinherit individuals who otherwise might have inherited. Furthermore, having a Will in place speeds up the probate process for your executor and can lessen the burden of estate taxes.

family walking

What if I Die Without a Will?

Dying intestate means to die without a Will. Should you die intestate, the government will decide what happens to your assets—and wouldn’t you prefer to have a say in the matter?

Every jurisdiction has its own intestate succession laws that determine how a deceased person’s estate is distributed. For the most part it is spouses and blood relatives who stand to inherit when someone dies without a Last Will. Unmarried partners, including common law and domestic partners in some states, won’t necessarily inherit. Consequently, estate planning is even more important if you want your domestic partner to be your main beneficiary.

If you have a spouse but no children, your property would generally go entirely to your spouse or be shared with other family members, depending on where you live. If you have a spouse and children, your estate would likely be divided amongst them, but if you have no spouse, your children would inherit your property.

What if I Have no Surviving Relatives?

In the rare event that you have no spouse or living relatives (including parents, siblings, or grandparents), your assets become the property of the state. This outcome may be incentive enough for you to create a Will.

Do you have a Will yet?

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Jessica Kalmar

Marketing Writer at LawDepot
Jessica is a reader, writer, and outdoors enthusiast.
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3 thoughts on “What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

  1. Pingback: Revocable Living Trust vs. Last Will - LawDepot Blog

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