Category Archives: Dying Without A Will

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

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

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

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

Another actor did it wrong. Do you have your plans in place?

Julie Garber, in her weekly blog, wrote about another person who did it wrong.  When actor Paul Walker died in a terrible car crash on November 30th, 2013, he left an estate estimated to be worth at least $45 million.  However, he had done no estate planning and left no will.  He was only 40 years old and probably thought he had plenty of time to get his affairs in order.  His parents, ex-wife and girl friend of seven years are now fighting over who should inherit.

According to California intestate laws, the entire estate should be inherited by his daughter, Meadow.  Since she is only 15, someone needs to be responsible for managing to estate until she turns 18.  Her mother is her guardian but is not necessarily the one who will control the money on her behalf.  Since her parents believe they should manage the estate, the case will have to go to probate court.

And what about his long term girlfriend, Jasmine?  She won’t see a penny.

Have you done estate planning?  Is all of your paperwork in order?  Or are you, like Paul Walker, leaving a mess for  your loved ones?

For more information about estate planning, go to

Stieg Larsson died with no will

Stieg Larsson, the man who wrote the milenium trilogy including the novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, died suddenly in 2004 at the age of 50. At the time of his death, he was not yet famous and he was living modestly with his partner, Eva Gabrielsson. In fact, they had been living together in Sweden for 32 years.

Larsson spent his career investigating rightwing extremism and received many death threats. He feared that getting married would make them an even bigger target. Despite that, he and Eva finally set a date for the ceremony but Larsson died before it could take place.

The couple had talked about setting up a company in which the two of them would share all of their assets as well as any money earned for writing books and articles. The company would provide that if one of them died, the other one would get everything. Because of this plan, Larsson felt that a will would be unnecessary and so never prepared one. But the company was not set up before Larsson’s death.

Sweden has no provision in their law for inheritance by common-law spouses so when Larsson died without a will, his brother and father inherited everything he owned, including the rights to his books and the profits that the 50 million copies sold made.

In 2007, the family gave Gabrielsson ownership of the modest apartment in which she and Larsson had lived and offered her $2.75 million. She turned down the offer because she wants control of the estate so she can manage the handling of the books, including movie and other publication rights. There is a partial manuscript for a 4th book in the series; since she supposedly helped Larsson write the trilogy and the manuscript is in her possession, she could finish the novel but she refuses to hand it over to Larsson’s family.

If only Larsson had written a will, settlement of the estate could have been handled smoothly and in a timely manner. Instead, in 2012 (more than 8 years later), the dispute is still going on.

Don’t put yourself in this position. Make sure you have a will so your estate will go to the person you want it to….not the one the government dictates. For more information about this topic, go to