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 What happens if I don’t leave a will?


What to Expect in the Absence of a Will

A will is important to have because it clarifies who gets what after a person’s death. If there is no will in place, the distribution of the deceased person’s property will vary depending on each state’s laws. For example, the deceased person’s property might be given to estranged relatives.


Determining Asset Distribution

The court takes several factors in account when determining who should inherit the estate’s assets in the absence of a will, including

  • Presence or absence of a marriage partner
  • Presence or absence of a domestic spouse
  • Presence or absence of relatives
  • Presence or absence of children


Single Without Children

If the deceased person isn’t married and doesn’t have children, the parents will usually receive the assets. If the parents are not alive, the property may be distributed equally among the siblings. If there are no siblings, nieces or nephews that are alive, there’s a good chance  the estate will be shared equally among the relatives from the mother’s and father’s sides.


Presence of Children Without a Spouse

If the deceased person doesn’t have a spouse, the property is equally designated to the children or the grandchildren.


Presence of a Spouse and Children

If there is both a spouse and children, it’s possible for the assets to be distributed two different ways. If the children are the deceased person and surviving spouse’s, the spouse will receive the estate entirely. However, if the children are from a previous spouse, the children and current spouse will share the property.


Presence of a Spouse Without Children

If the deceased person and surviving spouse owned assets together, the spouse is legally entitled to full ownership. However, if the property was owned separately, the parents, spouse and siblings may receive a part of it.


Presence of a Domestic Partner

The laws governing the distribution of property in this scenario vary by state. In states where common law marriages are recognized, the common law spouse should have just as much legal right to the assets as a married spouse would. In states where common law or domestic partners are not recognized, the assets may be distributed as if the deceased was single.


What happens to underage children?

A will also determines who will take care of any minor children if there isn’t a surviving spouse. The court will consider the deceased’s possible preference and the family’s status when making a decision on guardianship.


If you have questions or concerns about your family member’s estate, you may want to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer  such as the Scottsdale Estate Planning Attorney locals have been trusting for years.


Hildebrand Law A special thanks to our authors at Hildebrand Law for their expertise in Probate and Estate Law.