Halloween is just around the corner and neighborhood streets will be filled with children of all ages, dressed up in their costumes, eagerly collecting as many “treats” as they can. Although one may not normally associate estate planning with Halloween, it is actually one of the best times of the year to think about your estate plan. The holiday itself is associated with the pagan ritual festival of Samhain (pronounced “SAH-win”), celebrated by the ancient Celts and still celebrated by many around the world today.
The Celts believed that during this time, the veil between this world and the spirit world was at its thinnest, allowing for more interaction and communication between the two worlds. In order to ward off any evil spirts and fae, the Celts would leave them offerings of food and drink at night – hence the “treats” we hand out to children in their “scary” costumes.
Today, many who celebrate Samhain use this time to honor their ancestors and loved ones who have passed. So, you see, Halloween and estate planning really do go together!
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
Preparing an estate plan may not seem important, especially if you are young. However, having a plan in place in the unfortunate event of your untimely passing may make life for the family you leave behind much more manageable.
Each state has different laws on how the affairs of a person who dies without a will are handled, however, there are some basic commonalities in all of these laws. When it comes to leaving your family without an estate plan, your property and assets may wind up going to parties you would never have agreed to when you were alive.
When someone dies without a will, it is referred to as having died intestate. The first step that must be done in these situations is to name someone who will deal with the decedent’s estate. This person is referred to as the executor. If the person had a will, they would choose their own executor and that information would be named in the will.
There are typically lists of accepted individuals who can take the helm of an intestate individual. It could be the decedent’s spouse, adult children, trusted family member or friend, attorney, or someone else the probate court deems appropriate.
If the decedent was married, the surviving spouse is considered next of kin and would inherit the bulk of the estate. The marriage must be legal under the laws of the state. Domestic partnerships or common-law spouses are not always recognized. If the decedent had children, they would also get a share of the estate. In the case of minor children, the court may order their inheritance be placed in trust until they reach adulthood.
In the case of blended families, the surviving spouse may get less money if the decedent had biological children with someone else. Stepchildren are also usually not recognized as heirs and will not get a portion of the estate.
Other Blood Relatives
In cases where the decedent was unmarried and had no children, the court may leave the estate in the hands of parents and siblings. If there are no qualifying individuals, the court will look at other blood relatives, including aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Sometimes an estate passes way down the list to cousins if there are no other closely related relatives.
Call Our Firm Today
Don’t leave your family with a bag full of tricks by not having a solid estate plan in place. Make sure their future is protected. Call Yee Law Group today to meet with one of our dedicated Sacramento estate planning lawyers.