When Someone Dies Without a Will

Wills & Their Functions

Wills are designed to make sure that assets, both monetary and tangible, are distributed according to one’s wishes after death. As such, they are a critical component of solid estate planning. Here is what happens when someone dies without one in place.

Basics of Dying Without a Will

Those who leave us lacking a will are known as being intestate. The details regarding what this means from a legal perspective vary from state to state. Depending upon where the decedent lived, assets are to be distributed differently.

Belongings and monies are frozen until courts are able to determine how the wealth should be divided. This can be a difficult process for everyone, not to mention costly as estates in question are subject to probate fees.

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will

If you die not having created legal instruction, relatives will be assigned a court representative. Likewise, the government has the right to unilaterally pick the individual it wishes to act as executor.

One of the few advantages of entering probate is that creditor claims are halted. The time in which entities owed money may make claims can be as short as 90 days.

Courts settle existing debts before disbursing what remains. Spouses and offspring are typically the first to receive whatever is left. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies with pre-determined beneficiaries are typically exempt from this process.

What Happens When Single People Die Without a Will

The estates of single individuals who pass before creating a will are transferred entirely to their children. If no offspring exist or are identified, the deceased’s parents become responsible for the handling of assets. If these ancestors are no longer alive or present, siblings automatically become the estate’s beneficiaries.

Taxes After Dying Without a Will

High-worth estates are heavily taxed under federal law. For most, these penalties are not a concern. State taxes, on the other hand, are most likely applicable. Some are based upon the value of the estate. Others split these taxes among the deceased’s family. Depending upon the region in which you live, your right to a marital tax deduction may be lost, meaning you can no longer pass your estate to your spouse tax-free.

Not having a will in place is a hefty burden for surviving relatives. Besides legal complications, the animosity that arises among claimants can be intense. Immediately hire a lawyer specializing in wills to create one for you. Doing so can help assure that your passing causes minimal trouble. Contact a wills lawyer today for a consultation.