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Wills - What Happens if You Die and Don't have a Will?

Updated on January 18, 2012

What Happens if I don't have a Will?

The word "Intestate" is used when a person dies and doesn't have a will. If a person dies intestate, then the laws of the state you live in determine what happens to your estate. Not only that, the law also determines what happens to your children (assuming they are still minors). A probate court will do the governing in this case. The court will go through an often rather long process called administration. It has been known in the past for being rather slow. It also can be expensive, and be subject to some laws that people are surprised by.

Part of the problem is that if you have children who are minors, this is especially worth looking into. How awful it would be anyway, to die and have to leave your children without you. It would be worse to have all these other things happening which could be a long drawn out process. There would be a lot of uncertainty perhaps, and probably the extended family would be concerned as well. A lot of these problems can be avoided and it is a wise person that plans ahead for the unthinkable.

One example of an odd law in some states would be that if you have children, but get divorced and remarried, then your new spouse may get everything, and your children get nothing. That would be sad if the spouse went along with that, and we know that there are those types of people out there. It would be a bad situation and all because of lack of financial planning. Often, if you are unmarried and childless, your estate will be divided up between all the family members. So either finding out what the laws are in your state, or just having a will are wise ideas.

Queen Isabel dictating her last will and Testament.
Queen Isabel dictating her last will and Testament.

Two out of Three American's Die without a Will

The statistics show that two out of three Americans will die without a will. While this is unfortunate, it is the facts.  Not having a will is one of those issues in life where you absolutely can't remedy the situation after the fact (obviously, but many may not be really thinking about this). You can't go back and then get one "late" and with hefty fees added or something. Its a done deal, and the reality is there.

Laws vary from state to state. You can usually find out rather quickly how much legal help you may need or not, or to what degree you might need a lawyer if at all. Sometimes, a lawyer can just review what you have written. Some people will want to hire a lawyer by the hour.

Why not get a will or at least look into it to see how easy it might be for your personal situation. Unless you are very wealthy and have a lot going on financially, getting a will is relatively easy. Planning ahead financially for your death, even though it is sometimes an unpleasant thought, is very smart.


William Shakespeare's Signature on his last will and Testament.  From 1616
William Shakespeare's Signature on his last will and Testament. From 1616
Last Will and Testament from Kangxi Emperor (during the Qing dynasty 1654-1722).
Last Will and Testament from Kangxi Emperor (during the Qing dynasty 1654-1722).

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    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Phoenix! That is much appreciated!

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 

      7 years ago from USA

      Excellent hub!

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you very much Samsons! I agree with what you said.

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 

      7 years ago from Tennessee

      up and useful! Very good article that's needed. Was unsure as to the statistics (2 out 3); this alone shows necessity in planning. It also removes the burden from the rest of the family...

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Simone, I know it is amazing but I think people just never get around to it and consider it a negative subject perhaps. Thank you for the comment!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      I had no idea so many Americans die without wills. I'm glad you've addressed the subject!

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