Wills and Estate Planning

Is Writing A Will Necessary?

Take the time now to create a will if you want to ensure the recipients of your assets actually receive them after you die. Otherwise, it can be up to the courts to determine how your assets will be distributed.

What Happens to Your Estate if You Die Without a Will

I don't have the money. I can't find the time. I don't know where to start.

People have their own reasons (and yes, sometimes excuses) for not writing a will. But have you ever wondered what would happen to your property if you were to die without one?

Dying without a will is to die “intestate.” This means that instead of you appointing someone to distribute your assets according to your wishes, a court-appointed executor will compile your assets, pay any liabilities (such as debts and taxes), and distribute what's left to individuals who are considered to be beneficiaries.

Each state has different laws as to how property is to be distributed when someone dies without a will or a trust. However, under general intestate succession laws, it's typically only spouses, blood relatives, and registered domestic partners who are allowed to inherit your assets. So, without a will, if you wanted to leave your assets to a non-registered domestic partner, a charity, or even friends, you can pretty much count on them receiving nothing. To read more about intestate succession rules in your state, visit the Living Trust Network and just click on your state.

Depending on the state, a common line of succession for the distribution of assets for someone who dies without a will or trust may be:

  1. A surviving spouse
  2. Children
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers, sisters, and their lineal descendants
  5. Grandparents and their lineal descendants
  6. Any next of kin
  7. The state

According to NOLO.com, if you're married and have no children, it's generally your spouse who will inherit all of your community property, and any separate property that is not real estate. If you die and the courts are unable to locate relatives, then the state will take it all.

Writing a will ensures that your friends and loved ones receive your estate when you die. You can write your will yourself, or have it made for you by a qualified estate planning attorney. For more information on writing a will, visit the Protective Learning Center.

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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit www.protective.com.

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