When Someone Dies Without a Will

Arranging legal documents to prepare for death is not something most people consider doing or even think about. That may be why so many individuals die without a will in what is called “an intestate situation.” When you die without the legal document instructing your heirs or attorney on how to disperse your assets, the laws of your state of residence will determine how your possessions, holdings, and property are distributed. These state laws vary according to your marital status and whether or not you have relatives. Here are three possible scenarios your heirs could encounter if you die without a will.

If You Are Married

If you die in a community property state when you are legally married, and you have a spouse that survives you, your property typically reverts into the possession of your spouse. However, there are occasions when the very wealthy have their possessions divided between parents, spouses, and siblings when they leave no instructions regarding distribution. If there are children involved in the marriage, the spouse will be awarded one-half of the property, and the children will be given the other half of the estate.

If You Are Single

If you are single and die intestate, your estate will be left to your parents if they are still living. If your parents have passed, the property will be split equally between your siblings and half-siblings. If your parents and siblings are no longer living, your nieces and nephews will be the recipients of your property.

If You Are Co-Mingling

The rules about inheritance when the deceased dies while in a domestic partnership vary between states. Depending on what the laws and regulations of your state of residence are, your partner may be awarded your entire estate, or your surviving partner could find they have no survivor-rights at all. Children of the couple, even though the couple are not married, do have inheritance rights once each child’s paternity is established.

If You Are Prepared

Depending on how large your estate is, your will could become quite a complicated issue. An attorney in your state can help you prepare a valid and legally binding will, ensure your final wishes will be met, and guarantee your property will be distributed to those you choose. Knowing you can select where your money, property, or favorite personal possession goes can give you peace of mind.