FAQ: What Happens if I Die without a Will?

Orange City Iowa Estate Planning

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Last Will and TestamentYou’ve heard the statistic: 55% of Americans don’t have a will and there are lots of reasons why  If you’re one of those no-will Americans, it might interest you to know: “What happens if I die without a will?”

Leaving it Up to Your Congressmen

If you choose not to set up a will, you’ve essentially said, “The state legislature knows what’s best for me. I’ll just do what they think I should do with my stuff when I die.”

I don’t know about you, but considering Congress’s approval rating, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

State law says your estate passes to your “heirs at law.” Which include spouse and descendants, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Nieces and nephews. Third cousins, once removed. We’re going to give it to someone in your family, whether you like it (them) or not!

But there’s more to it than that

Not making a will can have a significant impact in today’s typical family structures. Blended families and second (or third) marriages are complicating factors. Families with young children (talking to you, sandwich generation) or where one spouse is in a nursing home may also have significant problems without a will in place. For example:

  • Do you have minor children? Well, you can’t appoint a guardian for them unless you use your will.
  • If you are on a second marriage and your spouse has kids of their own (your step-kids), you will only inherit a portion of your spouse’s estate if they don’t have a will.
  • If your spouse is on Medicaid in a nursing home, they will lose their Medicaid coverage if you die before they do.

Just the tip of the iceberg

The list runs on and on, but these are a few of the problems we see on a weekly or even daily basis.

It’s not uncommon to hear statements like “I want a trust to avoid probate,” or, “Doesn’t a will have to be probated? I don’t want that.” And those may be very true statements.

But wills serve several very important purposes. They’re a tool in the elder law and estate planning toolbox, and we use them in every plan. For a lawyer to not give you a will as part of a comprehensive estate plan would be irresponsible.

So put on your grown-up pants. Take responsibility. Now that you know what happens if you die without a will, set up a will – or better yet, get a complete plan put together – by calling us at (712) 737-3885 to schedule your initial Family Care Meeting today.

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