Commonly cited statistics tell us some 70% of adult Americans who should have a will do not. I get it.
I mean who wants to think about his or her own morbidity and mortality, let alone meet with an attorney and pay for an estate plan?
But what happens if you have no will? What are you risking when it comes to the distribution of your worldly assets?
Easy answer? You state law has a "default" will for you ... and your loved ones.
Think of it as a one-size-fits-all estate plan.
That is the question begged in a recent article in The (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch.
The title of the article? “Planning ahead: What happens if you don't have a will.”
In the absence of a will stating your plan for the distribution of your worldly assets, if you have:
- a surviving spouse and no living descendants (i.e., children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren), then all passes to your spouse;
- no surviving spouse but do have living descendants, then your estate will be divided among your descendants.
- no surviving spouse or living descendants, then your estate will be inherited in this order:
(1) your parents;
(2) your brothers and sisters;
(3) nephews and nieces;
(4) grandparents or their descendants; and the finally,
(5) the State.
So if your parents are alive, they get it all. No one in the later groups will receive anything.
And, yes, you read that right. The ultimate taker of last resort is your state treasury.
All in all that is the basic structure of intestacy, which means “without a will.”
In intestacy, there are no special provisions to cover unique situations, no gifts to favorite non-profit organizations, and no special strategies to lower estate taxes.
As the article reminds us, intestacy can be the most expensive version of estate "planning."
Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney and create a will to transfer your hard-earned assets to those who can best use them and protect those assets from taxes.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: The (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch (June 05, 2015) “Planning ahead: What happens if you don't have a will”