What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will? 

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Wills Lawyer

In the legal world if you die without a will it is called dying intestate. This is when a local probate court has to decide how to distribute your property. What is scary is nearly 70 percent of Americans are at risk of this because they don’t have a will or one that is up-to-date. When your last wishes aren’t written down and known, then the state intestacy laws will try to mimic the final wishes of a person but in the end, your actual wishes remain unknown. 

Not only that, but it can be a real headache for your family. 

How Dying Without a Will Affects Your Loved Ones

Dying without a will can waste your loved ones’ time and money. It can also cause some serious stress while grieving. However, with a will, you could take care of many of the things that would otherwise be decided by the court. Here are the things that the court would have to decide: 

  • Nominating your executor: The courts will have to pick who the executor would be. This is the person responsible for managing the estate as it proceeds through probate. This could easily be someone you don’t want to be in charge of your will. 
  • Nominating your guardians: If you die and you have minor children then they typically would go to their surviving parent. However, if both of you are passed away then the court has to find them a guardian. A will allows you to pick who that guardian will be. 
  • Nominating caretakers for your pets: Many people don’t know this but pets are considered property by the law. You really don’t want the courts to have to nominate a caretaker as they may not pick someone who knows how to take care of your pets. 
  • Instructions for debts and taxes: Sometimes there are directions for how the executor should handle certain debts and taxes from the estate. Without that, the court gets to decide and it could be in a way that you don’t agree with. 
  • Distributing assets and property: Many people name specific people in their wills to give specific gifts, heirlooms, or items of sentimental value too. The court may not know what to do and just divide it. So if you want to make sure your brother gets something specific the will is the way to go. It also helps get rid of family drama on who gets what if you named it in the will. 

When it comes to a will there is plenty of planning to do. When you start the process of a will it is important to talk to a wills lawyer, like the team at the Kaplan Law Practice, for the most accurate information possible.