A will allows you to specify who will inherit your estate. When you die intestate (without a will), the state decides how your estate is split. According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Americans do not have a will. This raises the question: What happens if a loved one dies without leaving a will? You can seek help from a law firm if you wish to get help drafting your Will.

What is intestate?

Death without a formal will is referred to as intestacy. When a person dies intestate, a state probate court must decide how their assets will be distributed. An intestate estate is one in which the Will filed to the court was found void.

When a person dies with a valid will, their assets are split among the beneficiaries named in the Will and through any trusts they may have established. Many people, however, die without having made a will. According to a Gallup study conducted in 2021, just 46% of Americans aged 18 and above possessed a will. According to Gallup, the number rises with age, but even at 65 and higher, only 76% of Americans reported having one.

Property that intestacy has no effect over

While evaluating whether or not you need a will, remember that certain property passes without a will and any intestacy procedures. This includes the following:

  • Real estate held as joint tenants, tenants by the entirety, or communal property with survivorship rights
  • A living trust’s assets
  • Beneficiaries of IRAs, 401(k)s, or retirement funds
  • Beneficiaries for life insurance benefits
  • Real estate or cars that have been designated as payable on death
  • Owned stocks or bank accounts in a payable-on-death account

Relationship status and dying intestate

  • Single

There are various possibilities if you are single and die without a Will. In the first case, unless otherwise specified in your Will, your children would receive your whole estate. If you have no children, your parents (if they are still living) will be in control of your estate. Finally, if you have no children and your parents have died, your wealth will be divided equally among your siblings. If you have no kids, spouse, siblings, or descendants of siblings (nieces and nephews), your assets will be divided equally between your mother’s and father’s families.

  • Married

If you die without a Will, your surviving spouse will inherit a share of your assets in practically every state. Remember that laws and regulations vary significantly from state to state, so your personal estate planner will need to smooth out the kinks.