Dying without a Will: What Happens to Your Family and Your Estate?

You might not want to think about your mortality, but getting your affairs in order may be more important than you think. 

No matter how big or small your assets, whether you’re single or married, or even whether or not you have children, it’s essential that you have a will that designates what happens to your money and property after death. 

If you end up dying without a will, you’ll leave it to the courts to decide who gets what. 

Don’t be one of the 46% of Americans without a will. Here are some of the things that might occur if you find yourself dead without a will.

Family Members Will Fight

A death in the family doesn’t bring out the best in people. Regardless of how much (or little) you have in terms of assets, it’s likely that your close family will dissolve into fights. 

Children might argue about who deserves the money more or come to blows over your favorite clock or nicknack… Relatives might say that you cared about them more and so they deserve part of your estate, and so on. But ultimately, this decision can be made by you today (and save everyone a lot of grievances! It might even save the family.

A will is an easy way to cut through the fight and make your desires clear. It is your money—and it is up to you where it goes.

Sentimental Items Will Get Complicated

Another issue that might arise is the issue of sentimentality vs. practicality. While the courts might be able to assign a monetary value to all of your assets, you cannot usually place value to sentimental objects.

For example, items like family heirlooms or engagement rings might be hard to pass down. Do you give it to one of your children, another family member, or sell it for money?

It can get even more complicated. If you give it to one of your children, is their share of the estate reduced by the value of the ring? Can you compare the value of cash to the value of a sentimental object?

By leaving instructions on the sale, preservation, and ownership of your valuable objects, you will make this whole situation a lot simpler.

Your Estate Will Be Hit with More Taxes

A will can even protect you and your estate from taxes.

The federal estate tax will not hit most Americans; approximately the first $5 million of an estate is tax exempt. The rest will be taxed around 40%.  But you cannot predict what future legislation will say in this regard.

Moreover, some states have their own regulations for estate taxes. And these state-level exemption levels can be a lot lower than the federal-level exemption.

If you do not have a will, you will lose tax benefits like marital deduction, which lets your surviving family members inherit your entire estate tax-free. Your estate may also be divided according to a state formula–which will subject parts of your assets to taxes.

The Risks of Dying Without a Will

Too many Americans find themselves unprepared for the event of a disaster or major death in the family. Dying without a will could leave your assets scattered and your family fighting for years after your death. 

Give yourself and your loved ones some peace of mind. Contact us today to take the first step towards planning your estate and getting your will set for the future.

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