What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

January 18, 2023

Yes, You Do Need a Will

About two out of three Americans do not have a will.1 The implications are worth exploring. When you die without a will, a state court judge can decide who gets what, even when it doesn’t accord to your wishes.

Dying without a will (i.e., dying intestate) can throw control of many of your assets into state probate court. While each state’s rules differ, some overall commonalities are discernable. If you care about the disposition of your estate, make sure you file a valid will and other documents that will ensure your wishes are executed.

Single, without children. If you are single, childless, and die intestate, your parents receive your entire estate, assuming they are both alive. If only one parent is living, your estate will be divided among your surviving parent and your siblings. Without a surviving parent, the estate goes to your siblings or their descendants in equal parts. If none of these relatives survive you, your estate will be equally divided between your mother’s and father’s relatives.

Single, with children. The picture changes if you die intestate, unmarried but with children. Your children divide your estate equally, but if any children predecease you, their children—your grandchildren—receive the child’s share. If no living person is eligible to inherit your estate, it goes to the state.

Dying intestate while married. If you live in a state with community or marital property laws, your entire state goes to your surviving spouse. In the other states, your estate will be split between your surviving spouse, siblings, and parents. If you have children with your current spouse, the estate might go entirely to the surviving spouse or be divided between the surviving spouse and your children. If you have no children with your current spouse, the spouse will receive half of your estate, and the rest will go to any children you may have had with a former spouse.

Unwed partners. State laws determine whether they recognize domestic partners. Those that do will generally treat the domestic partner as a surviving spouse. However, unmarried couples who are not domestic partners run a grave risk the surviving person will not inherit anything from the deceased. Instead, the estate will instead go to the deceased’s relatives according to the state’s laws.

Don’t wait. Take the time now to ensure your final wishes are honored after you die by having a current and comprehensive will. Contact me today and we can review your financial situation and discuss your expectations for the future.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.

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Wherever your goals take you, we can help you get there. We help our clients to navigate these and other important decisions that impact their economic future.

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Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC. LPL Financial and GrandView Insurance & Financial Services LLC are separate entities.

This material was prepared for Chris Larkin and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party or their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note—investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


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Expiration 06/25