What happens to your property when you die without a will?

| Mar 12, 2021 | Estate Planning

Regardless of what property you own, you likely acquired that property through working hard and devoted a significant amount of your time and energy. While it is true you cannot take your property with you when you die, it does need to go to someone. Understanding what happens to your property when you die is important because it can motivate you to take action so that your property ends up in the right hands.

A simple way you can direct where your property goes when you die is to execute a will. A will allows you to designate who will receive your property upon your death. Unfortunately, a lot of people die without a will. When someone dies without a will, the law refers to that as dying “intestate.”

No will means the law decides for you

If you die without a will or a comparable dispositive document, such as a trust, the state’s law will determine who receives your property and who handles the administration of your estate. These laws are referred to as “intestate succession laws” or “intestacy laws.”

Intestacy laws mandate that certain people have priority over others when it comes to who administers your estate and who receives your property. Spouses and/or children of a deceased person are typically first in line, followed by parents and siblings.

Intestacy laws can be very unforgiving, especially to those who do not have close next of kin, are not married, do not have children, or who have significant others that have no inheritance rights. Without a will to set forth your wishes, your property could end up in the wrong hands, or perhaps in the hands of someone who you do not even have a relationship with.

What can you do?

If you want to ensure your property goes to the right people, then you need to execute a will or a trust to reflect your desires. No one else can do it for you, and you likely do not want the intestacy laws to do it for you. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you with this and ultimately ensure that your hard work and efforts in acquiring your property are not wasted.