No one likes to think about death, especially their own. However, if you have been putting off making your last will and testament because of this reason, you may wish to reconsider.
Why? Because if you die without a will, your state considers you to have died intestate. Consequently, the state steps in to distribute your property according to its intestacy laws, which likely have nothing to do with your wishes or desires regarding who inherits what from you.
For instance, the state has no way of knowing any of the following if you die without leaving a will:
- Which assets you want to go to which heirs
- Which assets you orally promised to which heirs
- Which charities, nonprofits, or educational institutions, if any, you want to inherit from you
- Who you want to finish raising your minor child(ren) and the monies you want them to have for such purposes
- Who you want to take care of your pet(s) and the monies you want them to have for such purposes
Each state has its intestacy laws, also called laws of descent and distribution. As you might expect, virtually all states put your surviving spouse or registered partner at the top of this list. What percentage of your estate he or she will inherit, however, varies from state to state and also depends on several other factors, such as the following:
- Do you have any surviving natural or adopted children?
- Do you have any surviving grandchildren by a child who predeceased you?
- Do you have one or more surviving parents?
- Do you have one or more surviving siblings?
- Do you have one or more surviving aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, or cousins?
Intestacy laws can be, and often are, quite complicated. In general, the state seeks to distribute your property to your nearest surviving relatives when you die if you have not made a will. In the unlikely event that you have no surviving relatives at all, your property and assets escheat, i.e., revert, to the state.
Preventing Family Disputes After Your Death
All in all, dying intestate is not a good idea. It deprives you of any control over who inherits your assets and property after your death. It also leaves your family members in a bad situation ripe for strife and hard feelings that may last for generations.
Even if you intensely dislike thinking about your death, you nevertheless owe it to yourself and your heirs to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced estate planning or a will lawyer from a law firm like Yee Law Group, PC to help you with making your last will and testament.