Comprehensive Estate Planning And Probate Advocacy

What happens to my estate if I die without a will?

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2022 | Estate Administration & Probate, Estate Planning

It is natural for people to put things off. This is especially true with estate planning and creating a will. For Pennsylvanians of any age, it can be difficult to think about even though they are aware of the importance of having an estate plan.

The purpose of a will is to ensure that the person’s assets go where they want them to go. They often have other wishes they want to be met. To understand the challenges that can arise if the person does not create a will, it is useful to know how assets are distributed without a will.

Where does a person’s property go under intestate succession laws?

Dying without a will or any other type of estate plan is called dying intestate. The law details how property will be distributed if a person dies without a will. The property will be passed to heirs in a specific order. This could clash with what the person would have wanted had they created a will.

If there is a surviving spouse, that person either gets all or some of the estate, depending on whether the decedent had children or living parents. If there are neither parents nor children alive, the surviving spouse gets the whole estate.

If the decedent and the surviving spouse had children, the surviving spouse gets the first $30,000 and half of what is left in the estate. The same is true if there are living parents but no children. When the decedent had a child with someone other than the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse gets half of the estate.

The property will be distributed in the following order after the surviving spouse: the children; parents; siblings or their children; grandparents; aunts, uncles, children and grandchildren; and lastly to Pennsylvania itself if there is no one to whom to leave the estate.

Professional advice can help with knowing the value of an estate plan

There may be preconceived notions as to who is most likely to ignore the necessity of an estate plan. Younger people are vulnerable to the belief that the estate plan can wait until a later date. However, this can happen to anyone. Middle-aged people who are established in their life and career and who have children and own property might put it off. Older people who are approaching retirement or have already retired might not take this necessary step.

To avoid the negative impact of failing to have a will, it is imperative to know about the intestate laws. For a consultation and guidance on how an estate plan can help and what can be put into a will, calling for professional advice is a first step toward being prepared for the future.