What Happens If Someone Passes Away Without a Will


No one wants to dwell on their own death. But, if a person does not have a will drawn up and recorded, they will not have any say where their estate goes. Every person who owns any property or has a bank account or investments should have a will that directs where the estate will go. Even people who don’t have family might have friends or charities they would prefer to benefit from their estate. And, some people will want to make sure certain people do not benefit from their death.

Who Do You Hire To Draw Up a Will?

A Corpus Christi Probate Lawyer can draw up and record a will for anyone who wants one. Probate lawyers listen carefully to the client and write a will that fulfills their wishes for who should get the proceeds from their estate. They keep a copy of the will in a safe place and the client can call them to update the will throughout the years as the client’s situation changes. The attorney knows the law and can advise the client on all the legal issues with their will.

Wills are not only for the rich. Anyone who owns any property or assets should have a will to transfer their assets to the right people when they die. Some people try do-it-yourself wills, but that can be a big mistake. The will might not be valid in the end, throwing your estate into doubt. At the very least, take your do-it-yourself will to a probate lawyer to review. The small cost will be worth it. A person who has a lawyer they use for business and other reasons can ask then to draw up and file a will.

Why should You Have A Will?

Drawing up a will as you get older is too late in some cases. Young people with assets and minor children should have wills to protect thier children’s interests. A will names an executor or trustee to manage the estate. A will can name a person to be the guardian of minor children. A will can take care of the orderly sale or management of a family business.

  1. A will can allow you to speak your wishes after you die about how to pass along the assets you have worked hard to accumulate.
  2. A will can provide instructions for the welfare of friends or family members such as minor children.
  3. A will provides for the efficient distribution and management of your assets.
  4. By having a will, you get the last say on who gets what and how and when. And having a will can say who you do not want to get any of your assets.

Dying Without a Will Causes Problems for Those Left Behind

When a person dies without a will, it is called intestate and the state takes over deciding where your assets will go. This is done with succession statutes and state intestacy laws. These are rigid one size fits all rules that may not be in the best interest of your family. The courts will decide where your assets go. Some negative things that happen include:

  1. If a person dies while their children are minors, the surviving spouse may need to petition the court to be appointed the children’s guardian. This can get complicated.
  2. If the husband and wife or life partners die at the same time, the state could claim responsibility for the minor children for their care and support. This would be very traumatic for the children.
  3. The state would divide the estate equally among surviving children even if one does not need the money and another is very financially needy.
  4. The state could divide your estate between the children and a surviving spouse contrary to what you would want. This can lead to lawsuits that go on for years.
  5. This process does not allow estates to go to charity.
  6. If there are no relatives, the property or assets may revert to the state rather than who you would want it to go to.

What happens To a Single Person’s Assets?

Depending on the state a single person lives in, their assets will go to their parents if they are alive. If the parents are not alive the assets could go to any living brothers or sisters. The single person might have a friend or niece or nephew that they wanted the money to go to, but without a will, this won’t happen. Everyone’s nightmare is that the courts give their assets to an estranged relative that they hate and would never leave a penny to. In that case–they should have had a will.

If a single person dies without a will and has children, the courts will split the person’s assets between the children not taking need into consideration. Or, there could be an ex wife or husband who will step in to try to claim an inheritance.

People who die intestate and have a surviving domestic partner or are living together with another person can leave that person devastated and unable to inherit what should be theirs. The surviving partner can be left destitute as relatives claim all the assets, leaving them with nothing.

When a Person Dies Without a Will and Executor, Other Assets May Be A Problem

Some assets may not be in the main will and will need to be addressed. Can the people left behind find all the documents and will they contact the people named on the accounts? Having a will that covers everything and lists these additional assets helps those left behind with an orderly transfer of all types of assets.

* Life insurance proceeds are often designated in the policy to a particular person

* Assets held in joint tenancy with a spouse or assets deemed community property

* Property held in a living trust for a particular person or group

See Also

* Funds that have accumulated in a retirement fund or IRA, 401K that have a beneficiary named on the account

* Payable-on-death bank accounts funds that list a beneficiary

* There are stocks and securities that may be held with a transfer-on-death deed

* Real estate, vehicles, or other property held with a transfer-on-death title document or deed on record

If there is no will or list of assets and bank accounts, assets may be left unclaimed even if heirs need the money. The firms holding these assets may not feel obligated to contact the people listed on the accounts as beneficiaries, or may not be notified of their client’s death.

Every person should have a current will and a list of all their accounts and assets so those left behind can have an easier time settling the estate. A will can help avoid lawsuits.

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