The legal term for dying without a will is dying intestate. The laws regarding this situation vary by state but play a vital role in the distribution of your assets. Also, if you own property in multiple states, then the distribution of those assets depends on where they live. Therefore, the probate process can get very complicated. However, without a will, the distribution of your assets is also dependent on your relationship status at the time of your passing. Therefore, it is necessary to consider how your current lifestyle attributes to the necessity and benefits of having a will in place.
If you pass away while single, and you do not have any children, then your estate would transfer to your parents. However, if neither of your parents is alive, then your estate will likely go to your siblings. If you have no siblings and both of your parents have died, then your estate would be divided in two, with half going to your mother’s side of the family and the other half going to your father’s side. However, if you do have children, then your estate will go to them, being split equally.
If your assets are community or marital property, then your surviving spouse will likely keep full ownership of your estate. However, if they are not an owner or designated as such through a will, then your estate will probably be divided up equally between your spouse, parents, and siblings. However, if you have children, then your spouse may get up to half of your assets, with the rest being dividing amongst your children.
If in a Domestic Partnership or Civil Union
All states do not recognize domestic partnerships. However, if you are in a civil union and you die without a will, then your partner would inherit your estate in the same way a spouse would.
If Unmarried But In a Relationship
It is common today to be living together in a relationship and not labeled as a domestic partnership or married couple. When this happens, however, your significant other is not as protected as in different scenarios. In fact, if you are unmarried and not in a recognized civil union, then your loved one may not inherit anything, which is one of the many reasons estate planning is necessary.
People often put off writing their wills until it is too late. While single people with small estates may not need a will, the decision becomes dire when you are in a relationship. However, before making any decision regarding a will, contact an estate lawyer to determine the past path for preparation.