If you pass way without a will, it is referred to as dying intestate and your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to the intestacy process. Your heirs generally include close relatives, like your spouse, children, parents or siblings.
The intestacy process may vary depending on your individual circumstances, but there are general principles that apply. If you pass away and are survived by a spouse but no children, your spouse will inherit your estate. If you have a spouse and children, your estate will be divided between them.
If you have children but no spouse, the estate will be divided between the children. If you do not have a spouse, children, siblings or living parents, your estate will likely be divided between distant relatives.
There are several disadvantages to the intestacy process, which is why it is important to create an estate plan during your lifetime. One of the primary disadvantages is that you have a lack of control over how your assets are distributed after you pass way. A will can allow you to make those choices, instead of state law.
The intestacy process can cause disputes among your surviving heirs about how the estate should be divided, it can delay the distribution of your assets because it can be more complex without your instructions in a will and you could wind up leaving assets to a relative that you were not close to.
There are several estate planning options that are available to prevent these difficulties and give your family peace of mind.