In the unfortunate event that you pass away without a will, the distribution of your property may become subject to the laws of intestacy. This means that a local probate court may have to step in and decide how to distribute your assets. Without written documentation reflecting your wishes, the probate process can only follow state intestacy laws. Let’s look at how the laws of intestacy impact your loved ones.

What Happens Without a Will

If You’re Married

If you’re married and die without a will, your spouse is entitled to a share of your estate. This can be seen as advantageous for many couples as it ensures that the surviving spouse is provided for in the event of one partner’s death. If you’re married, but have children with someone other than your current spouse, then your estate will be split between your current spouse and your children.

If You’re Single

If you’re single and without kids, it’s essential to have a will to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes. The court’s distribution may align differently from what you want. For example, if you have a significant other not named as a beneficiary, the courts likely will not acknowledge them. Additionally, any assets you own, such as a car or a condo, may be used to pay off any outstanding debt you have.

If You Have Children

Having a will is an important step for parents to take to ensure their children are provided for after they pass away. Without a will, the distribution of assets can become complicated, especially if blended families, grandchildren, adopted children, or foster children are involved. Each state has its own intestacy laws determining how assets are distributed if someone dies without a will. Generally, when parents die without a will and have children, the children will receive an intestate share of the assets. However, the percentage of this share can vary depending on the state.

For parents with blended families or additional family members like grandchildren, adopted children, or foster children, determining the order of succession becomes even more complex. Each state has different rules about who inherits from an estate when additional family members are involved. Parents in these situations need to consult with an attorney specializing in estate planning to ensure their wishes are carried out and their children are protected.

How Dying Without a Will Affects Your Loved Ones

One of the most critical implications of dying without a will is the burden it places on your loved ones financially. Without clear instructions on distributing your assets, the court must decide who gets what. This often requires hiring lawyers and other legal professionals, which can be quite expensive. This can deplete the estate’s value and takes precious time away from those left behind, trying to navigate their loss and move forward with their lives.

On the emotional side, dying without a will or estate planning documents can create tension and disagreements among family members. When important decisions regarding guardianship for minor children or caretakers for pets are left up to the court system or siblings’ discussions, it can cause unnecessary stress during a time of grieving. Check out our Estate Planning Checklist and avoid unnecessary stress.

What Happens to Your Things When You Die Without a Will?

When you die without a will, the distribution of your personal property becomes significantly more complicated. As we have explained, the probate court will ultimately decide who receives your assets based on the intestate succession laws of your state. Instead of controlling who gets what, these laws outline a predetermined order of succession. Your surviving spouse will be prioritized along with any children that you do not share with your surviving spouse, followed by your children. If you have no children, your parents, siblings, and extended family members may be next in line to inherit. 

Contact an estate planning attorney at The Law Offices of Amy B. VanFossen to ensure your inheritance wishes are fulfilled. Our expert team of probate lawyers will walk you through the steps to prepare and file your will.

FAQs About Wills

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process that occurs after someone dies to oversee the distribution of their assets. It is important to note that whether or not you have a will, your estate may still go through probate court. If you do have a will, the process typically begins with the authentication of your will and the formal appointment of your personal representative or executor. This individual is responsible for carrying out your wishes as outlined in the will, such as gathering your assets, paying any valid creditors, and distributing your property and assets to beneficiaries.

What Does Intestate Mean?

Dying intestate refers to an individual passing away without leaving behind a will. A will is a legal document that outlines the deceased person’s wishes concerning the distribution of their property and assets after death. When someone dies intestate, they have not specified how their estate should be divided among their beneficiaries. Read more about Florida intestate laws here.

How Do You Write a Will?

Writing a will can be done differently depending on the complexity of your estate and your specific wishes. Hiring a lawyer is a wise option if you have a complicated financial situation or specific wishes that must be addressed. The lawyer will guide you through the process by asking relevant questions and using their expertise to draft a last will and testament form for you to sign, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and your desires are accurately represented in your will.

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