If you have not drafted a will, you are actually in good company, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, only 40 percent of American adults have created a will or living trust. Because of this staggering statistic, the laws of intestate succession apply more often than not when someone dies.
Following the death of someone without an estate plan, intestate succession determines how his or her possessions will be distributed among surviving loved ones. Here’s a brief breakdown of what might happen to your individual assets (as opposed to joint assets co-owned with another) if you pass without a will.
Single at the Time of Death
If you’re unmarried when you die without a will, there is a legal process in place for the division of your assets. The first family members to inherit your estate are your children and/or grandchildren. If you don’t have any children, each parent will receive 25 percent of the estate and any siblings, nieces, or nephews will receive the rest. On the occasion your parents or siblings have already died, your nieces and/or nephews will receive equal shares of the entire estate.
If the state finds that you’ve passed without a will and have no surviving children, parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews, your grandparents will receive equal shares of the estate. Provided that there are no surviving grandparents, the estate will be divided equally among your aunts, uncles, and cousins. If there are no aunts, uncles, or cousins, all assets would go to the state of Indiana.
Married at the Time of Death
If you’re married when you pass without a will, your spouse will inherit half of the estate and any shared children and/or grandchildren will inherit the other half. However, if you’re survived by children from a prior relationship, your spouse will be entitled to half the estate and one-quarter of the value of any real estate property, while your children and/or grandchildren will receive equal shares of everything that remains.
If there are no children but you’re survived by parents, your spouse would receive 75 percent of the estate and your parents receive 25 percent. When there are no surviving children or parents, your spouse inherits everything.
Discuss your situation with one of our attorneys
Even if you happen to agree with how your property would be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession, it’s still wise to create a comprehensive will. After all, making final arrangements entails more than just bequeathing assets to beneficiaries.