Those who die without a will in place have died intestate. What this means for those individuals left behind is the state will decide what happens to their loved one’s assets. To avoid this, you should speak with an estate planning lawyer so you can decide where every asset will end up. The following outlines what happens to your assets if you die intestate.
If you are single and have children at the time of your death, your estate will be equally split among your children. If you had a child die before you and that child had children, the share that should be for your child would then be split among those grandchildren.
If you are single and have no children, your assets would be given to your parents. If your parents have already passed on, your siblings would have your assets divided among them. This includes half-siblings as well. Single individuals with no surviving parents, children or siblings, but who had nieces and nephews still living would have assets divided among those nieces and nephews.
If none of the aforementioned relatives exist, assets would be divided equally between the deceased’s mother’s and father’s sides of the family.
Individuals whose spouse dies will generally inherit the entire estate. In some cases, the spouse, parents, and siblings split the assets. If you are married and have children with that spouse, the spouse will inherit everything. If you are married and have children from a former relationship, the spouse typically receives half of the assets, while the children from your former relationship will receive the other half.
When someone dies intestate, the law only recognizes surviving relatives. Unfortunately, couples only living together do not receive that benefit. Without a will, the deceased person will be treated as a single individual and assets will be divided accordingly.
Depending on the state you live in, domestic partnerships may or may not be recognized. If they are, the partner generally receives the same benefits as a spouse. If the state does not recognize a domestic partnership, the deceased individual would again be treated as a single person.
Contacting an Attorney for Help Creating a Will
Unless you are perfectly okay with the state determining who inherits what after your death, you should contact an estate planning attorney to get your will started. This will not only give you peace of mind during your life, but it will also give your family members less of a legal hassle upon your death.