Dying without a will or an estate plan can result in chaos for your loved ones. Without a will, your property will be passed along in a process called intestate succession, which is intended to distribute possessions based on the way the average person might. This distribution may vary greatly from what your actual wishes are, and there are no exceptions based on special needs, circumstances, or known wishes, which is why an estate plan is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out after you die.
What Happens Without a Will?
Under intestate succession, your property goes to family members, including any descendants. This means that in addition to your spouse or children, other family members like parents, siblings, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles may also be eligible to receive assets. If you do not have any living relatives to distribute your assets to, the assets will go to the state.
In most cases, if you pass away without a will, all or the majority of your estate will pass to your spouse and the remainder will be divided between your parents or any descendants who are not children of the surviving spouse. If you do not have a spouse, your estate will usually go to your children.
For parents, the most important part of a will is often the designation of a guardian for minor children. Without it, a court would decide the guardian.
Will substitutes are other ways to ensure that specific expenses are covered or specific people receive funds after your death. Will substitutes refer to legal ways to transfer property to a beneficiary.
One well-known example is a life insurance policy, in which you would designate your intended beneficiary. This person would receive the proceeds of the policy even if you had a will and he or she were omitted it. Another could be a transfer-on-death agreement for stocks. Annuities or IRAs are examples of other accounts for which you could set up a beneficiary.
Consulting with an Attorney
It is important to create a will. The cost is minimal but doing so can avoid considerable hassle after you are gone. Wills, trusts, or powers of attorney should not only be put in place but be updated periodically to reflect life changes such as births, deaths, and marriages. A TuckerAllen estate planning attorney can guide you through the estate planning process and can also discuss options such as will substitutes.