A will is the document you create which designates who receives your property when you pass away. If you do not have a will, the state you live in will provide a will for you, and your heirs will be appointed by statute. These heirs might not be the people you would want to inherit your property. Lack of a will may create contention between family members. These problems can easily be resolved by making your own wishes known through estate planning.
If you die without a will, it means you have died “intestate.” When this happens, the intestacy laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death. This includes any bank accounts, securities, real estate, and other assets you own at the time of death. Real estate owned in a different state than where you resided will be handled under the intestacy laws of the state where the property is located.
The laws of intestate succession vary greatly depending on whether you were single or married, or had children. In most cases, your property is distributed in split shares to your “heirs”, which could include your surviving spouse, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, and distant relatives. Generally, when no relatives can be found, the entire estate goes to the state.