Most people are aware that it is smart to have comprehensive estate planning in place prior to death. However, do you know what actually occurs if you die without a will?
Dying without a will is dying “intestate.” If this happens, it means that your estate is now under the control of the intestacy laws as prescribed in the state where you held residency before death. According to Findlaw, in most cases this involves the 1990 Uniform Probate Code.
What is the 1990 Uniform Probate Code?
The Code determines what happens if an individual dies without a will. However, the specifics may vary between states.
According to the Code, your closest relatives inherit before more distant ones. The first person to inherit is your surviving spouse, if you have one. Next are direct descendants, like children and grandchildren.
Following direct descendants are your parents, if they are still living. Beyond this, inheritance may go to siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and then aunts and uncles. If you have any adopted children or grandchildren, the courts see them the same way as biological children and grandchildren.
What are the negatives to dying intestate?
The good news is that the Code tends to follow common patterns of inheritance, even if a will exists. However, dying without a will has many problems.
First of all, inheritance will take precedence over need; for example, if you want to provide for a grandchild with special needs, you must have a clear will that states this. Additionally, dying without comprehensive estate planning makes it more likely somebody will challenge this predetermined pattern of inheritance. This makes the distribution of your estate legally complex for your surviving loved ones.