Creating an estate plan takes a lot of thought and can be a stressful experience. You need to review everything you own and owe. Then you have to decide who should receive your property and who you trust to manage the administration of your estate.
Many people put off estate planning as long as they reasonably can. Sometimes, an individual who thinks they can make an estate plan closer to retirement dies without a will. What happens to your personal property if there is no estate plan in place when you die?
Intestate succession laws determine your legacy
Every adult has the option of creating their own estate plan to determine their own legacy. If they fail to do so or if their wishes violate the law in some way, then the probate courts will apply state intestate succession laws to the property that they leave behind. Intestacy is the legal term for dying without an estate plan.
Every state has slightly different rules about how the probate courts should distribute the property that belongs to someone who dies without a will. Typically, close family members have the strongest claim to estate property. Spouses and children usually have a right to inherit before anyone else.
Parents, siblings and even grandparents also have statutory inheritance rights when you die without documents in place. If the state cannot locate any surviving family members, eventually, your assets may become the property of the state where you lived when you died.
Understanding what happens if you don’t start estate planning might motivate you to think about and write down your last wishes.