A will is a legal document that handles your personal property and other elements after your death. It allows you to decide how you want your affairs handled. A will is one of many documents that should compromise a comprehensive estate plan aimed to make your heirs lives easier during a sensitive time. However, what happens if you don’t create a will before you die? When you pass away without a will, you’ve died intestate, as an estate attorney, like from Klenk Law, can explain. Each state has laws on how to handle this type of situation. Take a look at what it might look like should you die intestate.
What if You’re Married?
Married couples should have a will that delineates what happens should they both die at the same time. If one spouse dies before the other, whether there is a will or not, the surviving spouse automatically inherits the estate. The exceptions to this are accounts or property that the deceased owns jointly with a third party, or that the deceased owned before the marriage. In some states, the surviving spouse inherits the appropriate share. In other states, the property or account passes directly to the other owner. Even if you are married, you want to have a will, especially if you want to give heirlooms to specific family members.
What if You’re Remarried?
Second marriages can complicate intestacy proceedings. If you die without a will, your current spouse doesn’t necessarily inherit first. Any children you, whether natural or adopted, become the automatic heirs to half of your estate. Your current spouse is entitled to the other half. Any property considered non-marital will pass 100% to your children, leaving your spouse cut out completely.
What Happens When You’re Single?
When you don’t marry and die without a will, the process can become quite lengthy. Probate courts deal with intestacy proceedings far too often. During this process, the court appoints a person to oversee your estate. Part of this administrator’s duties is to find out who your heirs are. If you have children, they will inherit the estate. If you don’t, the court next looks to your surviving parents and siblings. Finally, if there are no heirs to be found, the court may publish a notice to try and identify any relatives.
It doesn’t take much time to put a will together. To ensure that your final wishes are honored, speak to an estate planning lawyer. Regardless of your family situation, getting an estate plan together can make things pass smoothly after your death.