Estate Planning Lawyer
Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the saying that there are only two things certain in life, death and taxes. At least with taxes, you have a precise date to pay them. With death, it could happen tomorrow or twenty years down the road. There’s no way to know when it will happen. Preparing for death doesn’t mean that it’s imminent. It just means that you want to make things easier for your family when your death does happen. Here’s what happens when you die without a will.
Dying Intestate Can Be Time-Consuming and Expensive
Dying without a will is called dying “intestate.” It just means that your estate must be handled through the probate process without any of your potential heirs having a say. A will is the document that tells the state how you want your assets distributed upon your death. Your will usually names someone who deals with all the paperwork and details and taxes. For the record, taxes are certain after death, too. If you have minor children, your will names a guardian and maybe a trustee to oversee the assets that were left to the children.
Probate is the legal process that transfers assets and makes sure all the details of your estate are handled properly. If you have a will, the executor manages your estate according to the details in the will. Depending on how you set up your estate, it will likely have to go through probate. The biggest difference is that without a will, state laws determine how your estate is divided.
State laws, called intestate succession laws, determine who inherits your estate. Generally speaking, your spouse is the first person in line to inherit. If you’re single, it would be your children. If you don’t have children, then it would fall to your parents. If no relatives are found, the estate would default to the state. In most cases, unmarried partners or friends cannot inherit anything if you die without a will.
If you die without a will, the legal fees for the executor are paid out of the will. This can be expensive. You, nor your heirs, have any consideration over who is appointed by the probate court to be the executor. Probate may take longer because the state needs to ensure that all protocols are covered before finalizing the estate.
Talk to a Lawyer About a Will
Dying without a will does not inconvenience you, but it will certainly be more difficult for your family. Discuss your estate plan with an estate planning lawyer, to give your heirs peace of mind.