Dying Without a Will

WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE A WILL OR A LIVING TRUST?

If you die without having created a will or a trust, you are considered to have died intestate.  In this situation, the state has a created a default will for you.  The default will determines who the state appoints to manage your affairs after you die and the default will determines who will inherit your probate assets.

Upon your death the following will occur if you die without a will:

  • A family member will inventory the assets of the deceased and list what the decedent owned and what the decedent owes.
  • The inventory will include a list of all property with a title.  Based upon the method of title, the person taking the inventory will place the assets in either the automatic inheritance bucket, the trust bucket, or the probate bucket.
    • Property with automatic inheritance rights will automatically be transferred to the named beneficiaries.
    • Trust assets will be managed by the designated successor trustee.
    • The remaining probate property will be distributed according to the applicable state law of intestacy.  These are laws which describe who inherits your probate property when you fail to leave a will.
      • Under most state laws of intestacy, the probate assets are divided among a surviving spouse and children of the decedent.  However, if there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, then the intestate assets are distributed to next of kin.  In most states, stepchildren have no right to inherit.  If there are no surviving relatives, the entire probate estate may go to the state.
  • The inventory will also include a list of all property without a title, i.e., your jewelry, your furniture, cash, art, and your digital assets.  The estate representative will determine how to distribute the personal property to your beneficiaries.
  • An estate representative, sometimes called an administrator or a personal representative, will be appointed by the court to administer your intestate probate estate.  Most state laws contain a preference that a surviving spouse, and then surviving children, be appointed to serve as the administrator of the intestate estate.
  • The estate representative will decide if probate is required and whether the estate needs to follow procedures for a small estate, a surviving spouse, or a normal probate process.
  • The court appointed estate representative has the same responsibility as someone you appoint as an executor in your will or the successor trustee in your living trust, except that they are not guided by a will or a trust; their actions are governed by state laws only.  ibutton: State Intestate Succession Statutes

2 thoughts on “Dying Without a Will

  1. Michael Woods

    Kathleen!

    I was on the Perry Belcher call today and pulled up your site when you started talking about it. Must say I’m very impressed! I am a financial adviser and have been in the insurance and investment and planning business for 20+ years.

    Your site is a wonderful resource! I’ve been “old school” for years and am now just getting into the web applications in terms of marketing etc. You mentioned a possible affiliate application and I’d like to know more about that.
    When I look at the density of your site it makes me tired just thinking about all the work that has gone into it. Wow! But I am one of those people who deals one on one with folks who have lost a loved one, or are planning for their estate. Have had a number of clients pass away and have dealt with many family issues in terms of pre-planning for cancer patients as well as untangling a mess because of lack of planning. “Die Smart” is a great maxim!

    Congratulations on your work!

    Michael J Woods CLU ChFC
    734-864-3370

    Reply
  2. Correna

    Your site is a wonderful resource! I’ve been “old school” for years and am now just getting into the web applications in terms of marketing etc. You mentioned a possible affiliate application and I’d like to know more about that.When I look at the density of your site it makes me tired just thinking about all the work that has gone into it. Wow! But I am one of those people who deals one on one with folks who have lost a loved one, or are planning for their estate. Have had a number of clients pass away and have dealt with many family issues in terms of pre-planning for cancer patients as well as untangling a mess because of lack of planning. “Die Smart” is a great maxim!
    +1

    Reply

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