What Happens If You Don't Have A Will?

Do you have a will? If not, you could be taking a serious risk with your estate. You've likely worked hard to accumulate assets and build a legacy to pass on to the next generation. A will is a simple, but powerful financial tool that helps you direct the distribution of those assets. You can use your will to direct how your assets are passed onto your heirs and which heir should receive which asset. You can also use your will to state who should care for your minor children after you pass away.

If you die without a will, your estate is considered intestate. That means your assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws, which vary by state. That state law may deliver an outcome that differs from your goals and wishes. Below are a few consequences of intestacy. A will can help you avoid all of these risks.

Incorrect distribution of assets. Each state has its own set of intestacy laws, which govern how an estate is distributed if no will is in place. In most cases, the remaining assets go to a surviving spouse, although that may not be the case if the spouses have separate assets or if there are children from another marriage. In that case, assets may be split between the spouse and the children. If there is no spouse, assets may be split between children, siblings, parents, and a wide range of other loved ones. 

It's very possible that your state's intestacy laws could deliver an outcome that doesn't align with your wishes. Your assets may go to loved ones who you never intended to include as an heir. A will helps you avoid this process so you can choose your own heirs. 

Placement of children. Do you have young children who rely on you for support? If so, their world will undoubtedly turn upside down if you pass away. Your will states who should care for them in your absence. If the other biological parent is alive and available, they will likely go to them. However, if that isn't an option, the court will decide who cares for your children in the absence of a will. Again, the court may choose someone who you wouldn't choose. A will avoids this possibility so that you can specifically state who will care for your children after you pass away.

Legal conflict. Perhaps the greatest risk of intestacy is that it creates uncertainty and the potential for conflict. Intestacy is a legal process. The court will likely follow state intestacy laws. However, any of your loved ones can hire lawyers to challenge the court's decisions. If you haven't stated your wishes in a will, it's impossible for your loved ones to know what you wanted. They may argue about how assets should be distributed. They could even take each other to court. You likely don't want your death to create conflict in your family. You can use a will to state your wishes so there's no uncertainty about what should happen to your estate.

Ready to create your will? Contact an estate planning attorney today. They can help you develop a will that makes your wishes a reality. You can also check out a website like https://www.linskylaw.com for more information and assistance.