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What Happens If I Pass Away Without Having a Will ?

If you pass away without having a will, that means you’ve passed away “intestate”. When this occurs, the intestacy laws of where you live will decide how your property is going to be distributed upon your death. That includes any bank accounts, real estates plus other assets that you have at the time of your death. Real estate that is owned in another estate that’s different from where you lived is going to be handled according to intestacy laws of the specific state where your property is located.

The intestate succession laws differ considerably depending on your marital status or if you had kids. Usually, your property will be dispensed in split shares to all your “heirs”. This can include your distant relatives, nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles, siblings and your surviving spouse. Generally, when there are no relatives who can be found, the whole estate will go to the state.

Single Without Kids

If you’re single and don’t have any kids, your mother and father will receive your whole estate if they’re both alive. Otherwise, it’ll be distributed among your siblings (which includes half-siblings) plus your surviving parent, in a scenario where one parent is already passed away. If you don’t have any parent who is alive upon your death, your entire estate is going to be distributed equally among your siblings.

If you don’t have any surviving siblings, parents or even descendant’s of siblings (nephews and nieces), the relatives on the side of your mother will inherit one-half of your estate, and the other one-half will pass to the relatives from the side of your father.

Single with Kids

If you’re single and have kids, your entire estate will typically go to your kids, in equal shares. And if any of your kids had died before you and they have kids, their share would go to your grandkids.

Married without Kids

Depending on how the assets that you have owned at the time of your death, your estate will entirely go to your spouse who is alive (if it’s a community property) or divided among your surviving spouse, parents and siblings (if it’s a separate property).

Married with Kids

If you’re married with kids, your entire estate is going to go to your spouse if they are alive (if all the kids are the kids of your spouse who is alive). Your surviving spouse will otherwise get a maximum of one-half of your estate, and the remaining portion will pass to your surviving kids from another partner or spouse.

Unmarried Couples

Dying when you don’t have a will can be very devastating to unmarried couples who are staying together. Since intestacy laws recognise relatives only, an unmarried couple won’t inherit the property belonging to the other partner at the time one of the partners passes away without a will. Unless there’s a will that clearly states the intentions of a person when they die, the property of the decedent will be distributed among the relatives, depending on the relationship they have with the decedent.

Domestic Partners

Generally, special laws apply to domestic partners, and since not all states acknowledge domestic partnerships, it’s important that you check the laws of the state that you reside to learn exactly how property is divided upon death. Usually, if you die without writing a will, and your domestic partner is alive, they will inherit just the same as your spouse who is alive, but it depends on how you owned your property.

Since state laws vary, it’s essential that you find out the estate planning laws of the particular state you reside.

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