Even with all the information out there today on the importance of estate planning, many people pass on without ever completing it. One of the most vital pieces of a good estate plan is the will, which outlines how your assets and debts should be distributed after your death. This is the best option if you wish to have control over your beneficiaries, charitable contributions, and division of property. However, many people are curious what happens if they die without having a legal will in place?
If you die without a will or other estate planning document in place, it is known as dying “intestate.” In cases like this, the intestacy laws of your local government will come into effect, and your local laws will determine how your estate is divided. Many states’ laws are similar, and provide a kind of default, back-up option for all of those who die without wills. Your state’s intestacy laws cover things like real estate, securities, bank accounts, and other assets. And please note, that if you own property in other states, that will be handled by the state in which that property resides.
Depending on if you are married, single, or have children at the time of your death, your estate will be handled differently. If you are single and have no children, your estate will be divided among your living parents, or living siblings if your parents are no longer alive. Essentially, your assets will travel down the “line of kin,” on both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family.
If you are single and have children, your assets will automatically go to your children, divided equally. If any of your children have died before you, their “share” will be given to their children (your grandchildren), if there are any.
If you are married and do not have children, your estate will be divided according to your state laws and/or your individual martial documents. This is another place where a prenuptial agreement can have effect, besides divorce. Much of the time, your estate will be given entirely to your surviving spouse, unless indicated otherwise. Similar laws apply if you are married and have children at the time of your death.
If you are part of an unmarried couple or domestic partnership (in some states), unfortunately, your partner may not receive anything at all. This is one case where having an estate plan is critical, to protect the ones you love.
Are you ready to work on your will? Contact the law office of E.J. Boswell, experienced estate planning attorneys in Greensboro!