What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

The importance of creating a will before you die cannot be understated. Incredibly, 51% of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t have wills. This number only increases with those aged 45 to 54, where a massive 62% of people in this age category currently do not have a drafted will.

As you can imagine, the figures only increase again with those under 35 where a huge 92% of adults do not have a will. There are various reasons some people may feel they do not yet need a will, 18% say a will is simply not necessary, while 14% say it’s just too costly to have a will drafted. There is also an element of ignorance in how your assets will be divided after you die with 13% of those surveyed by The Virtual Attorney believing that a spouse and/or children will automatically receive their worldly possessions after they die. Unfortunately, that just simply isn’t true.

To use a famous example, when soul legend Barry White passed away in 2003 at the age of 58, he left behind two ex-wives, a long term lover, nine children and no will. After a lengthy legal battle the majority of White’s estimated $20 million estate ended up in the hands of his second wife, Glodean James, and not his most recent partner and mother of his latest child, Katherine Denton.

This illustrates the need to update or even draft your will when your circumstances change. Without a will the passing of your estate may not reflect your wishes and could force your family into a bitter dispute.

Dying without a will is known as dying “intestate”, this means the state will decide how your property is distributed, with some variations depending on state law. As the funeral plan provider Golden Charter reveals, even the rich and famous can fail to plan ahead when it comes to their estate. Bob Marley, Abraham Lincoln and Rik Mayall are all examples of people who have died intestate.

If you die intestate and have a spouse or domestic partner, he or she will receive: all of your property if you have no other living relatives, half of your property if you have a child and one third of your property if you have two or more children.

Any property not given to your spouse will be distributed to the following people in the order of: your children, your parents, your siblings, your grandparents (or your aunts and uncles if your grandparents are no longer alive), the children of your deceased spouse, relatives of your deceased spouse, and finally the state of your legal residence.

A will is not only important in establishing how your possessions will be divided following your death but it can also include your funeral wishes. Many people make a funeral plan before they die and this can often be incorporated into your will. Making plans for your funeral can often be just as important as drafting your will as it can help your family take the added stress out of your passing and ensure you get the send-off you deserve.

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