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Here's what happens if you don't have a will at death

You've heard many times that it's important to have a will. Why is it so important, though? Won't your spouse automatically receive your assets if you pass away?

The fact is that your spouse will not automatically receive your assets in most cases. When you die, you will have died intestate, which means the laws of the state where you reside take precedent.

When you pass away, your estate goes to either relatives or the state, depending on your situation. Laws of intestate succession vary significantly depending on your marital status and if you have children or relatives.

1. You were married before death

If you were married at the time of your death, your community property will go to your spouse. Additionally, separate property may be distributed to your parents and siblings.

If you have a spouse and children at the time of your death, then your entire estate will go to the surviving spouse so long as all the children belong to that spouse. If some of the children are from previous spouses, then your current spouse may receive up to half your estate with the remaining estate going to children from previous partners or spouses.

2. You were a domestic partner at the time of death

If you had a domestic partner when you passed away, then this can be complicated for your partner. Generally speaking, your partner should be treated like a surviving spouse.

3. You were not married at the time of death

If you were not married at the time of your death, then your partner may find that he or she is not entitled to an inheritance of any kind. Unless you create a will that states that you want your partner to receive your estate, the property will instead go to your parents and other relatives.

What happens if you don't have any relatives or a will?

If you have no relatives and no will, the state assumes control of your estate. If you want to prevent the state from taking control of your assets, you must create a will that details whom you wish to be your beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Your attorney can help you draw up a will to help protect your beneficiaries from having to go through probate after your death. A will helps make the transfer of property simpler.

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White Peck Carrington | 26 Broadway | P.O. Box 950 | Mount Sterling, Kentucky 40353-0950 | 859-274-4115 | Fax: 859-498-7363 | Map & Directions