Failing to execute a will can have significant consequences. As an Elder Law lawyer in Warwick, RI from a firm like McCarthy Law, LLC can explain, regardless of a person’s overall wealth and assets, wills are necessary to simplify the process when someone passes.

One of the most immediate problems that arise from not having a will is that your family will be forced to cope with a lot of uncertainty and drama during an already challenging time. In addition to the uncertainty, your family may also have to deal with considerable delay when it comes to dividing your estate. To make matters more complicated, the amount that they receive from your estate could be less than they would have received if you had executed a will. Here are some of the logistical consequences of dying without a will, which people sometimes refer to as being “intestate” in legal terms.

The Distribution of Your Estate Will Be Up to State Law

When people pass away without documenting their final wishes, a probate court will have legal authority to divide the estate in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction that is home to the deceased person. Typically, a surviving spouse may receive the entirety of your estate. If you don’t have a spouse, it may pass to other family members such as children. If you have no children, parents or siblings would be the likely recipients.

A court’s interpretation and application of state law may prove to be problematic for various reasons relating to one’s individual circumstances. For example, payments that a person has made to care for an elderly or disabled relative may suddenly stop when someone else has control of his or her estate.  

A Probate Court Will Appoint an Executor

Executors are responsible for the administration of an estate. They must pay creditors and distribute the proceeds of the estate to its beneficiaries. There is often a considerable volume of work involved in serving as an executor. If you have not appointed an executor in your will, a probate court will appoint one on your behalf.  

Not having a will may dramatically prolong the length of time that survivors must wait in order to receive any of your estate. Instead of authenticating your will and authorizing a designated executor to divide your property in accordance with your wishes, a court will go through the process of having an executor perform accounting and it will then issue a ruling about what will happen with your assets and outstanding debt.