Handling an Estate If the Decedent Doesn’t Leave a Will Behind

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Estate planning is an effective way to tell your loved ones what to do with your property and assets after you pass away. For many people reaching their golden years, wills are the go-to estate planning tool, and for good reason. Wills allow the testator to clearly state what they want to be inherited by whom and why. “My niece gets my car because she is an auto enthusiast,” for example, is easily interpreted during probate and shouldn’t lead to troubles or arguments.

But what happens if someone passes away and never bothered to make a will or living trust? It might seem like an unthinkable blunder but it actually happens far more often than you may realize. Actually, you might want to take a second and think, Have I made a will?

Following the State’s Rules of Inheritance

If you haven’t completed your estate plan with a will and pass away, the legal term is dying intestate. At this point, the state’s probate courts are in control of who gets what according to their intestate laws. Every state can ratify their own intestate laws but, for the most part, the process of finding inheritors is the same.

The intestate laws that apply to your property and assets are affected by your legal status upon passing:

  • Single, no children: The entirety of your estate will likely go straight to your parents. If you have no surviving parents, it will split evenly among your siblings. No siblings? Relatives start to be considered, starting with close blood relatives and petering out at a few lines of lineage away. If absolutely no one can be identified as your relative, there is a chance that your assets will be given to the state.
  • Single, with children: The estate will be split evenly among your children, without consideration for your parents or siblings.
  • Married, no children: This can become complicated based on the details of your relationship. In some cases, your estate will go entirely to your surviving spouse. In others, a portion of it may be given to your parents.
  • Married, with children: Generally, one-third of your estate’s value will be given to your spouse and the rest will be split among your children. If your children were younger than 18, the whole of the estate will likely go to your spouse, as they are assumed to have fiscal responsibility.

Your Will is Your Wishes

No matter how you approach the situation, dying intestate will create complications for your loved ones. Each case will be a little different from the next, and within this gray area are the recipes for serious legal troubles and headaches for potential inheritors. If you want to know that your wishes are going to be carried out and your loved ones are happy, you need to make a will.

You can come to Davidov Law Group for all your will and trust needs. Our Nassau County estate planning attorneys can bring 25+ years of collective legal experience to your case, allowing you to rest easy knowing that an entire team of professionals is helping you and your family. Contact us today and ask for a personalized consultation.

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