What Happens If I Don’t Have a Will?

A-ring-1525653“Without a will, a deceased person’s loved ones are left to wonder about their intentions, their emotions and their connections.”

With all the tributes and remembrances for Aretha Franklin over the past month, you may have heard that the Queen of Soul didn’t have a will. What does that mean for the star’s finances, her homes, and her music? Mic’s recent article entitled “How to write a will — and what happens when you die without one” explains that without a will, a deceased person’s family is left to wonder about their intentions, their emotions and their connections. Having a will is also an act of love for those you leave behind.

Everyone should set out their wishes in a will, so that no one is left guessing or with questions after the person dies. A will directs your executor what to do with your property, and you can name a guardian for your minor children. If you don’t have a will, your friends and family who are already in mourning, may be placed in a state of added grief or confusion. These issues and hard feelings have been known to go on for years. You can eliminate these troubles by drafting a simple will.

If an individual dies without a will, there are laws in every state that will dictate what will happen to his or her assets and property. Each state has these laws of intestacy, which are triggered for anyone who dies without a will. The typical line of distribution is based on your legal status. If you’re…

  • Married with no kids, or with kids who are the children of both spouses, all the assets will go to your spouse;
  • Married with children, a percentage (it’s different in every state) goes to your spouse, and the rest to your children if the children are not of both spouses.
  • Single with kids, they get everything;
  • Single with no children, your assets pass to your parents.
  • Single with no children and no parents, then your assets go to your siblings; and
  • Then down the line to nieces and nephews, cousins, etc.

In Aretha Franklin’s situation, since she wasn’t married but had four sons, it’s likely her assets will be divided among them.

In addition to drafting a will, another way to automatically distribute assets upon death is through a living trust. A trust will avoid the delay and hassle of the probate process, which is required under a will, and all the transfers can be done privately, without any court involvement. (Wills are public records, so anyone can pry into the details.)

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney soon to help your family by putting your final wishes in writing. Ask your attorney if a will or trust is the better choice… it will depend on your specific situation. Get going now!

Reference: Mic (August 31, 2018) “How to write a will — and what happens when you die without one”