What Happens if I Die without A Will?

Estate plans are an essential financial tool that protects your assets as well as your family after you’re gone. Unfortunately, many people fail to implement wills and trusts before they die, which can have dire consequences. Business Insider explains some of the things that might happen when you die without a will in place.

If you’re married without kids when you die, your assets will most likely be dispersed to your surviving spouse. However, this issue becomes complicated when considering the difference between separate and shared property. Any property you have that’s considered separate may be dispersed among other family members, including your parents and siblings. If you children from a previous marriage, assets will be split between them and your current spouse.

For couples that cohabitate but aren’t actually married, having a will becomes that much more important. Some states treat domestic partnerships like marriages, which means that assets not listed in a will are dispersed to your partner upon your death. Oregon does recognize domestic partnerships, but only if they’re registered in the state. Additionally, if there are questions about what who owns what property your partner may be out of the loop when it comes to inheritances.

Certain types of financial and retirement accounts are automatically passed on despite the presence of an estate plan. For example, if you filled in the beneficiary designations on these accounts the proceeds will be dispersed to the people named. The same can be said of any assets placed within a living trust. However, living trusts must be funded by changing the titles and deeds of assets to the name of the trust. Failure to take this step means your estate may end up in probate.