What Happens After Death Without a Will?

Yee Law Group Inc. > What Happens After Death Without a Will?

Estate Planning Lawyer in Roseville CA

Estate Planning Lawyer in Roseville CA

If you pride yourself on your decision making abilities, you’ll enjoy making your last will and testament. Don’t see the connection? It’s simple. Making a will gives you the final decision with regard to who gets which of your assets. If you die without a will, you have no say at all about it whatsoever.

As an estate planning lawyer in Roseville CA from a firm like Yee Law Group Inc. can explain, if you die without having first made your will, your state deems you to have died intestate. This means that you left no instructions about the distribution of your assets. Consequently, the state steps in and distributes them according to whatever laws of intestacy and succession it has in place. All of this may have nothing to do with what you may have wished, but with no will, your state has nothing else to go on.

Natural Heirs

Each state has its own intestacy laws that specify your “natural heirs,” i.e., your family members it presumes should inherit from you, and the order in which they should inherit. In general, this order of succession goes as follows:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving children, both biological and adopted
  • Surviving parents
  • Surviving siblings
  • Surviving grandparents
  • More distant relatives, such as surviving aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

In the unlikely event that you leave no surviving family members whatsoever, your assets escheat, i.e., they go to your state itself.

Inheritance Amounts

In addition to determining who inherits from you, your state’s intestacy laws also determine how much each person gets. Some states give your surviving spouse (assuming you have one) half of your estate and the other half to your surviving children. Other states give your surviving spouse a specified amount before dividing the remainder of your estate 50-50 between him or her and your surviving children.

With regard to children, if one of your adult children predeceases you, but his or her children survive you, they share equally in whatever portion of your estate your child would have received had he or she survived you.

Who Gets Left Out

Intestacy laws take no notice of others, such as the following, who you may have wished to leave something to:

  • Your friends
  • Your business associates
  • Your church
  • Your alma mater
  • Your favorite charity or nonprofit organization
  • Your pet

After all, without your will to guide it, your state has no idea what your inheritance wishes may have been, and it will not attempt to read your mind after the fact.

Bottom line, if you feel strongly about who gets what when you die, the only way you can ensure that your wishes will be followed is to make a valid last will and testament.