First and foremost, make a will. It is vital to how your property is handled after you pass away. Whether people die unexpectedly, simply forget, or never get around to it, many people do not create a will during their lifetime. People assume they have created a will after they orally claimed how they want their property handled after they pass away. The same happens for those who believe they have created a will through email or a simple letter. The fact is, you must create a formal will in writing.
This article will focus on what happens to your property if you do not make a will. The laws on dying without a will are referred to as intestacy. Although such laws vary by state jurisdiction, they generally follow the same method of distribution of a deceased’s property. For purposes of this article, we will highlight patterns that each state jurisdiction generally includes.
Intestacy follows a common pattern based on whether you are married, married with children, single with children, or single without children. Furthermore, much of intestacy will fall on whether your parents are still living at the time of your death.
Married – No Will
States differ on who receives your property at the time of your death.
Married with children
The most simple of all the scenarios is if you are married with children. The assets will be split among the surviving spouse, along with your children.
Married without children
In this scenario, some states will permit all assets to go to the surviving spouse. To the contrary, other states will divide the assets between the surviving spouse and the parents of the deceased. If the parents of the deceased have pre-deceased you, the assets will be split between your siblings and your surviving spouse.
Single – No Will
If you are single at the time of your death and do not have a will, the laws of intestacy are fairly simple.
The pecking order is as follows. If you are single with children, your children will receive all your assets. However, if you are single without children, your parents will receive your assets. If your parents predeceased you, your siblings will evenly split your assets among themselves. If you are single without children, your parents predeceased you, and you have no siblings, do not worry, the laws of intestacy did not forget about you. Your relatives on your mother and father’s side will evenly split up the assets. If you do not have any relatives, then pick up the phone and get in touch with a JustLaw attorney today because you need a will.
Unmarried Couple/Domestic Partnerships
If you are living with your partner but are not married to them, a will is mandatory. Why mandatory? Because if you die without a will, your partner receives nothing. Your assets will be distributed among your parents and siblings.
For those in a domestic partnership, your assets will only be passed to your surviving partner if your state recognizes domestic partnerships.
Create a will!
The reason we stress creating a will is because you should have the ability to control how your assets are handled after death. If you want your niece to receive all your assets, you need to specify that in a will. If you want your best friend to receive some of your property along with your surviving spouse and children, you need to specify that in your will as well. The laws of intestacy cannot read your mind, you must make it known in a will. And just because you told your brother that you want your boat to go to your uncle, doesn’t mean the boat will go to him. Nothing bounds that oral claim because you never executed a written will. Simply expressing your wishes orally, or in an email, or even in a simple letter will not suffice. Therefore, make a will. You will not regret it.
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After reading this column, we hope you feel extremely motivated to go create your will. And if you need help, your friends at JustLaw are just a click away.