Consequences that surface when someone dies without a will

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2021 | Estate Planning

You would be surprised at the number of people who procrastinate when it comes to estate planning. Then again, maybe you will not be when you learn about the stories of high-profile and affluent people who died without having a will or trust.

A long list of celebrities who died without a will exists. It includes Chadwick Boseman, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Steve McNair, Sonny Bono, John Denver and Kurt Cobain. What happened to the estates of these famous people could happen to any estate if no will exists. Complications, uncertainties, legal battles and the state courts deciding what will happen to your estate are guaranteed.

Legal and guardianship issues

If you think about assembling an estate plan, follow through and create one. You want to provide clarity for your beneficiaries. Dying without a will leaves the important estate decisions to the state. Ideally, you want to have those decisions in place. But, as it turns out, many Americans do not have estate plans.

In its 2021 survey of 2,500 Americans, Caring.com discovered that while the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted awareness about getting a will, the number of residents who do not have a will – roughly 2 out of 3 – remained the same as last year.

Here are some matters that may surface without having a will:

  • An onslaught of legal problems surfaces for your family and friends, leading to potentially contentious court battles. Ongoing squabbles among family members remains a possibility and so do the number of so-called “beneficiaries and heirs,” coming forward to claim their share of the estate.
  • The fate of your children. No will means you did not name a guardian for your minor or adult children with special needs if you die. The court must do this and may select someone you never would have considered.
  • The court may divide your assets in a way that you would not approve. In some situations, estranged siblings and relatives suddenly gain a good chunk of your estate’s assets.
  • Your surviving spouse may now face a slew of financial issues. The court may divide the estate between your spouse and children, forcing your spouse to make drastic decisions, including selling the house.

Your estate is one that has significant value. In your lifetime, you have taken good care of it by building it up, diversifying your assets and paying close attention to it. Having an estate plan that includes a will or trust means that you continued to take good care of your estate, while ensuring that your beneficiaries will have fewer worries and a great amount of peace of mind.