What Happens If You Die And Don't Have A Will?

13 November 2018
 Categories: , Blog


Are you one of the many Americans who doesn't have a will? It may be time to change that. A will is one of the simplest and most effective documents at your disposal for managing your estate. You can use it to direct the distribution of your assets, to name an executor of your estate, and even to determine who should take custody of your minor children.

Of course, not everyone chooses to create a will. That could create big problems. When you die without a will, your estate is considered to be intestate. Lacking guidance or input on how to manage your estate, your local probate court assumes the role of executor. Each state has different rules and laws regarding intestacy, but it's fair to say that the courts may make decisions that you wouldn't make for yourself. Below are a few complications that could arise if you die without a will:

The courts could decide who gets your kids. Have minor children? If so, a will become even more important. If you're married to the other parent of your children, they'll likely retain custody of your kids. However, it's possible that the other parent isn't in the picture or isn't responsible enough to care for kids. It's possible that you and the other parent could pass away together, in a car accident for example. In those instances, custody could be an open question. The courts may choose someone you wouldn't have chosen. Obviously, there's no way to challenge that decision from beyond. However, you can avoid this risk by creating a will and stating who should have custody of your kids.

Your loved ones could fight each other. Your will states who should get which assets. Without a will, the courts make that decision. Most of the time the court follows the state's intestacy laws. However, heirs can challenge the probate court's decision. If you have grown children, they could fight with each other about who should get certain assets. There may be items that hold sentimental value. Or some children may think it's unfair for another child to get so much money. The uncertainty around your estate could create a rift in the family. Again, that can be avoided with a will.

Your heirs will pay for legal and financial expenses. All estates go through a legal process called probate, which is the settlement of an estate. It involves a variety of tasks, like notifying heirs, liquidating assets, and even filing taxes. Depending on the complexity of the estate, probate can be time consuming and costly. Your estate may need to hire lawyers, accountants, and more. Those costs reduce the amount of money available in the estate. A will doesn't avoid probate, but it can reduce the complexity. Also, during the process of creating your will, your estate planning professional could suggest other strategies that would avoid probate, like a trust.

Ready to protect your heirs and your legacy? Contact an estate planning professional in your area, or visit a site like http://valentineandvalentine.com.