With a busy life, making a will may not be one of your top priorities. You may continue to shove it to the back of your mind, thinking that you have plenty of time to get it done.
Having no will takes control out of the hands of your relatives and gives the power to the courts. When a person dies in intestacy, he or she died without making a will. The decedent’s money and property go through intestate succession in which the state distributes the assets to the heirs.
Although the state does ultimately decide the outcome of the decedent’s estate by going through the probate process, there are instances where some assets may be exempt. Assets that do not go through probate are those with a surviving co-owner or beneficiary. Those assets may include:
- Property in a living trust
- Life insurance
- Individual retirement account, 401(k) or other retirement accounts
- Certain bank accounts
- Transfer-on-death securities
Bank accounts that have a payable-on-death account may have a beneficiary named. The bank may complete an immediate transfer of assets upon the death of the account holder.
Understanding who gets what
The assets that do not have a beneficiary named will go through probate. The state breaks the money and property down according to the decedent’s relatives. The breakdown is as follows:
- If the decedent left a spouse and children, they may share the property.
- If there is a spouse but no children, the spouse will receive the entirety of the estate.
- All the children will inherit the property if there is no spouse.
- If there is no spouse or children, the property may go to the decedent’s parents.
- If the decedent does not have a spouse, children or surviving parents, the property may go to any siblings.
Any of the decedent’s children must be biological or adopted. Stepchildren may not inherit any assets. Half-siblings of the person may inherit holdings as if they were full-blood relatives.