What Happens if I Die Without Having a Will?

July 19, 2021
Wills and Estates

When a person passes away and a will is absent, the state in which the individual resided will determine how their property will be distributed, including bank accounts, securities, and real estate. It is important to note that some assets are not passed by a will, such as 401(k) accounts. If a property is located in a different state, that jurisdiction will handle the real estate.

Often, the state will decide to split the assets between the deceased’s heirs, such as children, a spouse, uncle, aunt, parents, or siblings. However, the person’s marital status has a great impact on how the assets will be distributed. If the person’s relatives cannot be located and there is no will to name the executor, the state will take ownership of the assets. For this reason, it is extremely important that someone constructs a will in a timely manner. A will can protect the deceased’s family as well as their assets.

The Marital Status of the Deceased

Intestate succession laws dictate that the state will step in when the deceased does not have a will. The state’s intestacy laws govern who is entitled to what assets according to the decedent’s marital status and lineal descendants.

The deceased’s marital status and whether they had children will affect the outcome of the asset distribution:

  • Single: If a person died unmarried without children, the parents would likely share the assets. If the person had children but no spouse, the children would inherit everything.
  • Married: The decedent’s surviving spouse would be entitled to the assets if no descendants are involved. If the deceased had a spouse and descendants, the assets will be shared. How assets will be distributed among the parties varies by state.

What Should be in My Will?

Having a will makes asset distribution less expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, it helps ensure that the survivors will be taken care of during an already difficult time. Many believe that only people with a high net worth should have a will, but this is not the case. A will can benefit everyone.

A will should include many important elements, such as:

  • What property will be included.
  • Who will inherit the property.
  • An executor.
  • Guardian of the children.

A lawyer is important to have when creating a will because there are many types of assets and laws that the person may not think about. It can be beneficial to make a list of critical documents before speaking to a lawyer about an estate plan.

After making a will, witnesses will need to be present during the signing process. This will help make the will official. Owing to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there may be alternatives to this process, so it is important to discuss this with a knowledgeable lawyer.

Once the will is officially created, it is crucial to store it in a safe place. It should be labeled and stored securely, and one should notify the executor of the will’s location. For further help with a will and related questions, a person should thoroughly speak to a lawyer about constructing an effective estate plan.

Media Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients Form Wills

Many people may be hesitate about creating wills in a timely manner, but it is important to do so. Passing away without a will can create hardships for your family. If you need help with an estate plan, speak to a Media wills and estates lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. today. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701. We are located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.