If you die without a will, then the law of your state will determine the distribution of your property. That is why it is worth getting acquainted with the regulations and thinking about property succession, regardless of your age.

Each of us should have a will to instruct who is to receive the property when we die – house, car, money, etc., and who will take care of our children. Your last will determines the fate of your entire life’s achievements and the future of minor children.

About 70% of people in the United States do not have a will. The reason for this is the unawareness of the complications that follow due to the lack of will or other appropriate preparation.

Without a will

What happens when we die without a will? Answer: There will be intestacy laws in accordance with our state’s laws.

Statutory inheritance depends on the laws of the state and whether the deceased is married or has children and a different family.

Single person with no children
Her property will pass to her parents, and when her parents are dead – to her siblings.

Single with children
Their property will be divided equally among the children, regardless of their age, financial status and circumstances. An adult child will get the same as a minor. Wedding and illegitimate children, adopted and biological children, wealthy children and those in financial difficulties inherit the same. If you do not leave a will, the children of all marriages will inherit from you equally. If it is not your intention to divide the property evenly among all your children, make sure you make a will.

A marriage without children
It may seem to us that if we do not have children we will inherit everything from our spouse. Well no. State laws grant a spouse only a fraction of the estate, from one-third to one-half. The rest is to be shared between the parents of the deceased, and in their absence – between his siblings.

A marriage with children
It is a popular opinion that a widow/widower with children gets everything, especially when these children are underage. Well no. State law gives a portion of the estate (half or a third) to a surviving spouse, and the rest must be shared between the children, regardless of age or financial need.

In New York State, for example, a widow inherits $50,000 plus half the estate, and the rest is to be distributed to the children “per stripes”, meaning “branch of the family” descendants. In Illinois, the surviving spouse inherits half and the rest pass to children “per stripes”.

It is quite possible that adult children (especially those from another marriage) will begin to stand up for theirs after their father dies. If they are stubborn and hire a lawyer, the widow will have to divide the property and it is possible that she will not have enough funds to cover her old years. To avoid this, the father should make a will by leaving the property to his wife.

What property passes through the will

Property passes through the will, which we keep in our name and which do not have an appointed heir (beneficiary).

In the USA, you can dispose of property in the event of your death not only with a will, but also in other ways, such as: bank records in the event of death (pay-on-death account), retirement account entries, joint property, living trust, wills. All these instruments are a kind of contract (agreement) and you have to remember that they cannot be changed by a will.

The easiest way to donate property outside a will is to make someone the beneficiary of a bank account. We fill out an appropriate form at the bank and make someone our beneficiary. After our death, this person reports to the bank for money with a death certificate.

Another method is to make someone co-owner of a bank account or real estate. This method has its drawbacks because it is tantamount to an irreversible donation. If we add our son’s bank account, and he gets into trouble, our bank account may be seized for his debts.

It follows that a house kept in two names – e.g. mother and daughter – after the mother’s death will automatically pass to her daughter outside the will, regardless of whether the mother left the will and what she wrote about the house.

Question: Who will receive the house owned jointly by the mother and daughter, and bequeathed to the son in the mother’s will? He will pass to his daughter, because the property community cannot be changed by a will.

Second question: Who will inherit the retirement accounts? The mother named her daughter as the beneficiary of her IRA retirement account. In her will, however, she bequeathed the account to her son. Who will get mother’s money? A daughter, because that was the wording of the pension account contract, and the will cannot change it.

Is a will absolutely necessary?
In some cases yes, in some no. If we have a house and bank accounts together with another person (a spouse or an adult child), a will is not necessary, because the other person will inherit from us. In other words, if we have all our property in partnership with our spouse, then he inherits everything, even without a will, because all property passes beyond the will.

But if we have the property ourselves, we should make a will, because no one will be able to take over these items without probation. A will is also unconditionally needed by people who have minor children to appoint legal guardians in it in the event of the death of both parents.

Conclusion: What happens if we die without a will? If we have substantial property held only in our name, it must undergo a judicial probation procedure and will be distributed not according to our intentions but according to state regulations. Without a will, the court will decide who will be the legal guardian of our minor children.

The lack of a will not be a problem only if all our property has co-owners or beneficiaries to whom we want to leave the property. But since each of us has different things, it is worth having a will, not leaving property succession to chance. Besides, it is worth leaving the so-called recent medical orders for keeping us alive.

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