What Happens When You Die Without An Estate Plan?

If you pass away without an estate plan — a Will, Trust, or other legal structure — an administrator will be appointed by the court to distribute your estate. An estate can consist of real property, which is defined as a parcel of land and everything that is permanently attached to the land, as well as any personal property that is owned at the time of death. When someone passes away without an estate plan, the court is given the power to distribute that property, which is referred to as Probate. This means that assets could end up with someone you did not wish to share the assets with. 

What is the Uniform Probate Code?

The best generalized reference for understanding where your assets go without a Will is the Uniform Probate Code. In most states, based on this code, a close family member would receive the estate once an individual passes without an estate plan. If there is a surviving spouse and no children, the spouse will receive the entire estate. If there are children, assets will be split between children and the surviving spouse. 

How does the probate process work without an established will?

The Probate process without a Will can be difficult, but it is important to understand the process. Hiring a lawyer who is an expert in these laws is essential. When someone passes away without a Will (or a Will is challenged in court), the Probate process begins. A form will be filed, and documentation will be requested, such as a death certificate. Someone will then be assigned as an administrator to help move the Probate process along smoothly. 

Who may be assigned as an administrator?

Typically this would be a surviving spouse or child, but it could be anyone. Depending on how complicated the estate is, the Probate process could take quite a while to complete. This is where hiring a Probate lawyer could be extremely helpful. With several third parties contacting the administrator, a Probate lawyer can assist in filtering through requests and help to relieve unnecessary stress.

Why should I establish a will?

Loved ones are already under the stress of grieving after a loss, and dying without a Will can add extra stress as well as expenses and time. To protect your family, be sure to nominate individuals within your Will to leave your estate, pets, guardianship, and any instructions for debt or taxes. 

Over the last several years, more and more people have not kept their Wills updated — in 2020, only 30% of Americans have an up-to-date Will. In order to avoid this risk, reach out to our probate lawyer team at McCarthy Law to ensure that your family will be settled and cared for in the event of your passing.

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