What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

While we have all been told at one point or another that we need to have a will and a detailed estate plan, you are not alone if you do not see estate planning as a priority. In fact, many people are not sure what happens to their estate after they die if they do not draft a will, and they do not see a will as important. Unfortunately, dividing someone’s estate after they are gone, and handling their affairs, can be quite complicated if they do not have a will. To help you better understand why having a will is so important, take a look at just a few of the complications that can arise if you die without a will.

Your Money May Not Go Where You’d Like

One of the primary reasons to write a will is that this allows you to designate who you would like to benefit from your estate after you pass. You can specify who gets what with physical property, and you can specify how much money each of your beneficiaries gets after you die. Without the proper estate plan in place, it is likely that the courts will decide who gets your money and property, which will be determined according to the laws of the state in which you live. In most cases, your estate will be divided amongst your closest relatives starting with your spouse, then going to your children, parents, siblings, or extended family. Without a will, there will likely be no protections for unmarried partners, friends, or charities, and your money may not go where you would have wished.  Additionally, the intestate succession laws do a lousy job of handling estates when the decedent is married and have children from someone other than the spouse.

Custody Can Be a Problem

Having a will is also important if you are a parent, as it can be instrumental in helping to determine who will take care of your kids if you die while they are still minors. Without a will, this is another decision that will be left to the courts. A judge will pick a guardian for your children (usually a family member), based on who they see as being most fit to raise your children. However, this means that your children could end up with a relative you would not want raising your children, rather than a friend or another relative who you see as being more fit to parent your children.

A Costly Legal Battle May Ensue

If you do not create a will that specifies what you want to happen to your estate and your children, this may cause fighting to erupt amongst your relatives after you pass. Unfortunately, the fact is that grief often brings out the worst in people, and it is not uncommon for families to be torn apart fighting over money, property, and family heirlooms after a relative passes. In fact, it is not uncommon for inheritance disputes to turn into a legal battle, with relatives bringing in attorneys to fight their case. By doing something as simple as taking the time to designate a will, you can help to significantly minimize the drama and fighting that could ensure after you pass.

People May Not Know What You Wanted

Beyond outlining how you want your estate to be handled after you die, an estate plan can also allow you to express your wishes for what kind of funeral you want, and how you want your remains to be handled after you pass. Oftentimes, people do not like to discuss their own death with their loved ones. However, this can leave relatives unsure of what to do when a loved one passes if they do not know what kind of funeral you wanted, where you want to be laid to rest, or even whether or not you want to be cremated. By writing a estate plan you can put your relative’s minds at ease by letting them know what you would have wanted.

Having a will and estate plan can help to ensure that your estate and your affairs are handled as you would like when you are gone. However, estate planning can be a complicated process, making it critical that you consult an attorney when drafting a will. A lawyer can help you to determine if a will is the right estate planning option for you, and they can help you to ensure that your will is valid. Contact us to learn how we can help you with the estate planning process.