Wills & Why They Are Important

What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

Wills & Why They Are Important

AARP estimates that about 60% of Americans do not have any estate planning. If you die without a will, it’s called “intestacy.” Essentially, it means that state laws determine who benefits from your estate. Your assets are frozen until your case goes through probate. The court combs through your estate to finalize all the details of your finances. It can be a long process, depending on the volume of cases in probate in your jurisdiction.

Who Benefits From Your Estate?

Most states have laws that dictate who receives your assets. Generally speaking, the spouse has first priority, then your children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. Probate court doesn’t take into account estranged relationships or personal preferences. The court may prioritize minor children over adult children. If you create a will, you have the ability to outline who inherits. Without a will, the state decides. Keep in mind that if you’re in a domestic partnership, your partner will probably be left out of the equation. Most states do not recognize unmarried partners in the line of succession.

Who Oversees Your Estate?

Without a will, the court nominates an executor of your estate who handles all the details. Your estate pays a fee for this service, because it does come with a lot of paperwork. In your will, you can name a friend or family member to handle these duties. In many cases, the named executor doesn’t take a fee, which saves your beneficiaries the money. Your executor knows your wishes, which can help push the will through probate, getting your heirs their money quicker.

Who Takes Care of Minor Children?

When you die without a will, a judge will determine what’s in the best interest of your minor children. Although the court does its best to put the children in a good place, the reality is that the court has no idea of family dynamics, which means your minor children could end up in a household that wouldn’t be your choice. A will lets you name a guardian of your minor children, so you know that your children are taken care of.

Your Will Is Important to Your Family’s Future

A will is your voice after your death. Because no one knows the day they will die, estate planning is important at any stage in your life. Don’t leave those important details up to the court.