To Heir or Not

There’s an old law school joke where a professor asks one of his students what it was called when someone died without a Will. The young student answered “unwillingly.” While this may have been good for a laugh, the correct term is “intestate.”

If you are married and die without a Will, your property will pass to your spouse if you do not have children from another relationship. If you have children from another relationship, 50% of your separate property and 50% of your community property will go to your spouse and the other 50% of your separate property and your 50% of the community property will go to your children from the prior relationship.

If your spouse pre-deceases you or if you are not married at the time of your passing, your estate will pass in equal shares to any children (natural or adopted) that are still living.

But what if you are unmarried or your spouse predeceased you and you have no living children and no other living relatives? What happens to your estate?

Should this happen, your assets will pass via intestacy – or by default – to the State where you resided at the time of your death. This is often referred to as the Heir of Last Resort. So, how can you keep this from happening to you?

Regardless if your estate is large or small, it is very important to have a Will. If you don’t have any living family, you most likely have friends or charities that you would prefer receive your assets rather than having them go directly to the State of your death. You can even use your Will to make arrangements for any pets you have at the time of your death.