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What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

The legal concept for dying without a will is "intestate." When this occurs, the intestacy law of the state you reside in governs how your assets are divided. The intestacy laws of the estate's state will apply to any real estate owned in another state.

Who Receives Your Land? 

Intestate succession laws determine who will be your successors. These laws vary by state. In most cases, your property is divided into shares and shared with family members, including a husband or wife, adult or minor children, adopted children, parents, relatives, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and extended relatives. 

Who does not inherit a portion of your estate? Stepchildren, long-term partners, and loved ones who are not blood relatives. Your entire wealth is usually distributed to the state when no relatives are found. Bank deposits, retirement accounts and IRAs, property investment, and personal property are all examples of your wealth.

Children in Intestate Succession Laws

The court will decide the rights of your children if you die without making a will or naming your children as heirs. This is why it is highly important for the family to focus on estate planning.

State judges will try to ensure a child's guardianship is in their best interests. However, courts are often unaware of the family situation, which makes determining "what might be best" exceptionally difficult.

In many cases, a family member will participate in raising their passed-away relative's children. Nevertheless, without a court order, it is difficult to ensure the child (or children) will eventually wind up in the household of their parent's choice without a will.

Your Estates and Taxes

What happens next when a person dies without a will depends on the state, but we will review the basics.

If your property is worth more than $11.58 million, federal law taxes it at 40%. Anything less is normally exempt from federal taxation. State taxes will have various laws, especially if you die without leaving a will.

If your estate is worth more than $1.6 million, some states tax it at a rate of up to 16%. Other states split your estate taxes between your children and spouse using their own method.

Postponing the proper actions to write your last will may also result in the loss of your spouse's marital deduction, which, if described in your will, you will have access to. 

There are different scenarios explaining what might happen in the event of a person's death based on their relationship situation at the time of death. They are as follows:

Intestate Law For Single People

There are several possibilities if you are single and die without leaving a will. In the first case, unless expressly stated in your will, your children would inherit your entire fortune. If you have no children, your parents, if they are alive, will be responsible for your estate. 

Ultimately, if you have no children and your parents have died, your estate will be divided equally among your relatives. Suppose you have no partner, children, siblings, or heirs of siblings (nieces and nephews). In that case, your assets will be divided equally by your mother's and father's families.

Intestate Law For Married Couples

Remember that rules and regulations differ slightly from state to state, so your personal estate planner must clarify the specifics. If you are married, your surviving spouse will receive a percentage of your assets if you die without a will in almost every state. 

If you are married and have kids with only your surviving spouse, the spouse obtains 100 percent of your community property. The remaining funds are divided according to intestate succession law. In cases where people have children from previous relationships, one-half of their estate is divided equally among those children, with the other half going to the current surviving partner. Again, exact figures vary by state. 

Intestate Law For Domestic Partnerships

Domestic partnerships are not legally recognized in every state, so it is critical to check your state's laws when splitting a person's assets after death. A registered domestic partner receives the same as a married surviving spouse in states that acknowledge domestic partnerships — Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Cohabitation or Common Law Marriage

When someone dies without a will, unmarried couples who live together can suffer terribly. Intestacy laws only acknowledge blood, marital, or adoption relationships. Cohabiting couples generally cannot retain the other partner's property unless the decedent's intentions are clearly stated in the will. In the absence of a will, the decedent's property will be split among relatives per intestate succession law. The other partner will keep only their separate property.

Property held in tenancy by the entirety or joint tenants with the right of survivorship by both sides will transfer to the surviving partner. A common-law spouse might inherit in a state that acknowledges this type of marriage and in states that identify another state's common-law marriage. Still, the inheriting partner must demonstrate the existence of their common-law relationship.