What will Happen to my Assets if I Don’t Have a Will?

A will is a legal, estate plan that distributes personal assets, money, property, and other parts of a person’s estate to their loved ones. Without a will, however, there is no legal guidance to how property should be given to any individual.

State governments have intestacy laws, which are laws that help break-up estates of individuals who die without providing a will to their lawyers or families. Each state will vary with their intestacy laws and if parts of an estate reside in one state when the person lived in another state, that estate needs to follow the state laws where it resides, not the deceased’s state.

Although all states vary, most intestacy laws likely will divide property evenly between the spouse or domestic partner and children of the deceased or completely to the spouse or domestic partner. If the deceased had no children or a spouse or domestic partner, then the deceased’s parents will be given the estate. If the parents are predeceased, then the deceased’s siblings will be given access to the estate. Finally, if the siblings are deceased, then the nieces or nephews of the deceased will be given the estate. However, not all states will follow this formula exactly. If there is no will and the deceased was married, a certain state intestacy law could divide the estate in half between the spouse and the children and with the deceased’s parents or siblings if the parents have died. Under most state laws, if there is no family whatsoever to the deceased, then the state is usually the beneficiary of the estate. The state can then sell off the assets for a profit. No friend or close acquaintance to a deceased person can claim the estate can be given to them. All intestacy laws split property to the deceased’s married or biological family.

What this shows is that it is important to create a will. A person who does not create a will places their assets in the control of a third-party government official who distributes the assets under state laws. Most people want to be able to have a laid out, legal piece of writing that dictates how they want their property distributed to loved ones. Even if the person does not have any living relatives, they could give their estate to a close friend. None of these wants will happen unless the state has an explicit will to follow. It is best to invest in a will so that loved ones, family members, or friends do not suffer from an across-board, legalistic, distribution of assets.

Call Attorney John I. Peters, an experienced Estate Attorney today at 740-927-3858 to help you through the process!