When someone dies without a will, it is known as intestacy. Intestacy laws vary from state to state, but in general, the assets of the deceased person will be distributed to their closest living relatives in a specific order. This order typically goes as follows:
- Aunts and uncles
- The state
If the deceased person has no living relatives, their assets will go to the state. What may surprise you is that even if you are married and have children, even from the same marriage, your probateble assets will be divided between your spouse and children which is a frequent cause of disputes arising in the probate courts, requiring additional legal work and expense for the family. For reference, please see Connecticut General Statutes, section 45a-437 (2023).
Dying without a will can lead to a number of unintended consequences, such as:
- As shown above, your assets are unlikely to be distributed according to your wishes. If you have specific wishes for how your assets should be distributed after your death, you need to put those wishes in writing in a will. Otherwise, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of your state, which may not be what you want.
- Your family may have to go to court to settle your estate. If you die without a will, your family may have to go to court to determine how your assets should be distributed. This can be a lengthy and expensive process.
- Your minor children may not be cared for by the person you would choose. If you have minor children and you die without a will, the court will appoint a guardian for them. This may not be the person you would choose to raise your children.
How to Avoid the Consequences of Dying Without a Will
The best way to avoid the consequences of dying without a will is to create a will. A will is a legal document that specifies how your assets should be distributed after your death. You can create a will yourself or work with an estate planning attorney. When creating a will, you will need to designate the following:
- Executor: The executor is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the terms of your will.
- Beneficiaries: The beneficiaries are the people who will receive your assets after your death.
- Guardians: If you have minor children, you will need to designate guardians for them in your will.
You can also use your will to express your wishes for other matters, such as your funeral arrangements.
Dying without a will can lead to a number of unintended consequences, so it is important to have a will in place. A will is a legal document that specifies how your assets should be distributed after your death. You can create a will yourself or work with an estate planning attorney.