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What if I Die Without a Will?

Updated on March 14, 2013

There are many reasons people put off preparing a will.  They are too busy.  They feel they’re too young for it to be necessary.  They just don’t want to think about dieing right now.  Whatever your reason is, you need to know what will happen should you die without creating that important document.  

The Intestate Process

When you die without a will, you are considered intestate. Now it will be necessary for the courts to decide how your assets will be distributed. Your estate will go into probate. The laws differ from state to state, but your assets will be divided according to the intestacy laws in the state where you live. This may not be how you would have chosen to divvy up your property, but it is the only way possible now.

All your property will be divided among family members. You may have liked to leave something to a close friend or a favorite charity, but that will not happen. On the other hand, you may have a family member you would have restricted from receiving any of your property, but the court cannot exclude him/her as an heir. When you failed to leave a valid will, you forfeited having any of your wishes known.

The probate system has been criticized for being costly and time consuming, but society has not come up with a more efficient system for handling a deceased person’s affairs. The probate system can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete its function. The court will appoint an administrator and administration costs will be charged. The fees will be paid by the estate and must be paid before any property is distributed to your family members.

If You Die Without a Will is Probate Necessary?

Make Your Wishes Known

The best way to protect the people you care about is to make a valid will. How do you make a will? If your estate is not too complex and you feel comfortable preparing your own will, you can purchase a do it yourself kit at a reasonable price. Most people, however, prefer to take the precaution of hiring an attorney that specializes in estate planning. A competent lawyer can answer your questions, guide you through the maze of legal terminology and make sure that your will is valid in the eyes of the court.

One thing a lawyer cannot do, however, is to make decisions for you. You will need to gather the necessary information and determine how you want your estate divided. If you are married, you and your spouse should make those decisions together.

If you die without a will, it could prove detrimental to those you love and care for. It is never easy to face our own immortality, but for the sake of your loved ones, it is unavoidable. It is the last thing you can do to make sure the people you care about do not suffer or go without while your assets are tied up in probate. Making a will is a testament of your love and concern. Do it for them.

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