Category Archives: Dying Without A Will

Dying intestate. Dying without a will. Intestate succession laws determine who gets your property.

Do I Really Need a Will?

last-willYes, you do.  A will is a legal document which ensures that your property is transferred according to your wishes after your death.

If you don’t have a will, here are five things that can happen.  We found this list at nerdwallet.com.

  • Spendthrift heirs – If you have heirs who aren’t equipped to handle a large sum of money, receiving it may cause damage.  Perhaps these heirs are bad at handling money or, maybe, they’re drug or alcohol addicts.
  • Unexpected or contested heirs –  There may be confusion about who the beneficiaries really are.  Sonny Bono, musician and politician, died without a will.  His ex-wife, Cher, and a man who said he was Bono’s son tried to claim part of his estate, which his wife, Mary, contested in court.  Prince’s estate is another classic example.  Many people came out of the woodwork claiming to be relatives, entitled to a piece of his assets.
  • Property (and probate) in multiple states – If you own property in more than one state, your estate will have to go thru the probate process more than one.  Probate is a costly and timely process, even if you just go through it once.  Image if you own property in four states and your heirs have to hire four attorneys and go through the whole process four times.
  • Fabricated wills – If you don’t have a real will in place, it’s possible for someone to create a fake one – especially if your estate is large.  A famous case involved the estate of tycoon Howard Hughes.  When he died, several supposed wills surfaced, and his estate spent millions of dollars defending against the false documents.
  • Beneficiaries don’t like the court appointed executor – If there’s no will, the probate court will appoint one.  It may likely be an experienced attorney but not necessarily one the family knows.  It may take a great deal of time for this person to take inventory, appraise assets and distribute the estate.  If you have a will and name a family member as executor, that person will usually do a much faster job, possibly because that person is also a beneficiary.

If you don’t have a will, you should prepare one now.  Otherwise, your assets may not be distributed the way you want them to and a lot of extra money will go to attorneys and the probate court and not to your heirs.

For more information about wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, go to www.diesmart.com.

Robert Holmes a Court’s big mistake

robert holmes a courtHis mistake is one people continue to make throughout the world.  They don’t make a will and die intestate.  About 50% of people say that they don’t have the time, don’t think they need one, don’t know how to get started, it’s too gruesome a topic to think about, they’re not going to die yet….or offer up many other excuses.

Robert Holmes a Court, who had built a $2 billion empire in Australia in the 1980’s, died suddenly at age 53 without a will.  Legend has it that he carried a will around in his briefcase for years…unsigned.  Regardless of whether this is true or not, what is a fact is that, because he did not have a valid will,  the legal wrangling to settle his estate took almost 20 years to resolve, seriously straining family relations in the process.

Two other blogs we found also discuss some of the problems that can occur if you don’t take the time to make a will.

http://www.trishparr.com/are-you-a-modern-day-scrooge/

http://www.lancasterlawblog.com/2015/10/articles/estate-planning/second-marriage-and-intestacy-dying-without-a-will/

There are two facts you can’t change:

1) You ARE going to die.

2) If you don’t have a will, the government will decide what happens to your estate.

If you have a $2 billion empire like Robert Holmes a Court, it may take you awhile to draft a will and the other documents you will need to protect your assets and ensure that they will be distributed the way you want them to be.  If you have an estate that is a little smaller, a simple will can be drawn up and executed very quickly.

Don’t let the government make important decisions about your estate for you.  Make the time and get your will prepared now.

For more information about dying intestate and will preparation, go to DieSmart.com.

Are your loved ones protected when you die?

last-will  Larry and Susan had been living together for more than 20 years.  They never legally married; they said once had been enough.  A piece of paper wouldn’t change how they felt about each other.  Larry had been married before and had two sons.  Susan had also been married previously and she had a daughter.

When Larry’s father became incapacitated, they moved into his house to take care of him.  His father, to thank them for all they’d done, left the house to Larry in his will and named Larry beneficiary of his life insurance policy.  When his father died, Larry inherited the house and Susan and Larry continued to live in the house.  Larry promised to deposit the check from the insurance company into their joint bank account as soon as it arrived.

As Larry was crossing the street on his way home from work one day, he was struck by a car driven by a drunk driver and he died almost instantly.

Larry didn’t have a will and had not left any legal document naming Susan as his heir.  They lived in a state that did not recognize common law marriage so, when he died, his sons inherited everything.  They forced Susan to move out of the house and refused to give her any of the proceeds from the life insurance policy.  In essence, Susan was left with almost nothing!

Families today are very complex.  Some are the traditional married mother and father in their first marriage.  Many more are couples who were previously married to other spouses or who are legally married gay couples.  However, many people live together without benefit of a legal ceremony. This mixture of circumstances makes inheritance much more difficult and complex.

The only way to be sure your loved ones are protected is to prepare a will or a trust naming the person(s) you want to inherit your assets when you die.  Otherwise, state law will dictate who receives what.  Not you. It’s frightening that more than half of the people living in the United States today do not have a will and have not protected their loved ones. You can find a simple will form on the internet or can meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss the options that are best for you.

Don’t be like Larry.  Act now so those you love will be protected when you’re gone. For more information about wills and estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

Don’t bury your head in the sand!

So you donbury head in the sand’t think you need a will?

Don’t bury your head in the sand like more than half of all Americans.  That’s the percentage of people who don’t have a will…and probably don’t think they need one.

Maybe you think you don’t have enough assets to make it worthwhile.  Perhaps you think your spouse will automatically get everything.  Or you know your children will do what’s right so you don’t have to worry about it.

Do you know who actually decides who gets what when you die if you don’t have a will?  It’s the government!  Yes, every state has laws that determine who will inherit your things if you die intestate (without a will).  Your spouse and children will have no choice and will not be part of the process.  In some states, it’s simple.  Your spouse gets everything.  In others, your spouse splits the estate with your children.  If you aren’t married or don’t have children, your parents or siblings may be the ones who get it all.  You may not want your siblings to get anything or, perhaps, you don’t want your parents to inherit.  Maybe you’d prefer that the bulk of your estate goes to charity.  Whatever your wishes, without a will, they won’t be carried out.

It’s very easy to draw up a simple will.  There are many templates on the web or forms you can fill out for less than $100.  If you have a complex estate and need to sit down with an attorney, it will cost more.  However, for less than $100, you have no excuse.

Get a will drawn up today.  Don’t let the government make the decision for you.  You decide who inherits what when you die.

For more information about wills, go to diesmart.com.

Bobbi Kristina had no will – what happens now?

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, died on Sunday, 7/26/2015.  She was only 22 years old and probably had no plans to die so young.  She had done nothing to prepare for death and had no will.

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, she left her entire estate to her daughter.  That estate was worth more than $20 million.  Because of her grandmother’s fear that Bobbi wouldn’t be able to handle so much money at such a young age, she challenged the will and a court ruled that the money could be given to Bobbi in increments.  Although the bulk of her inheritance was not supposed to be given to her until her 30th birthday,  she had received approximately $2 million when she turned 21.

Her father is her next of kin and so, according to the law, will inherit the money she had already received.  However, since he was divorced from her mother, I’m sure Whitney Houston would not have wanted any of her money to go to him.  The balance will probably go to Whitney’s mother, Cissy, who is 81 and her two brothers, Michael 53 and Gary 57 since they are Whitney’s closest living relatives.

Because of the number of people who would like to receive some of these millions, this case will probably go through a long court process before anything is definitively settled.

Is this what Bobbi Kristina would have wanted?  We’ll never know.

Have you written a will, designating what you want to happen to your estate when you die?  Do you want the law to make the decision for you?  You could die suddenly at age 22 from what may or may not be an accident like Bobbi Kristina or at 90 or 95 from a  heart attack or lingering illness.  If the answer to either of these questions is no, you should draft a will immediately and name those people who you want to receive your assets as well as things meaningful to family members like your mother’s jewelry and your dad’s artwork.

You can find a form for a simple will on the web or, for a more sizeable estate, can meet with an attorney to have one drafted soon.  Otherwise, in addition to the law deciding for you, it will make things harder for your surviving heirs.

For more information, go to www.diesmart.com.