What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

what happens when someone dies without a will

A will gives seniors peace of mind

If your older adult wants to be sure that their assets and property will be given to certain people or organizations after they pass away, they must have a will.

A will is especially important if your older adult plans to give assets to their unmarried partner, close friends, or charities.

Otherwise, the court decides what happens to their property – and certain people or groups will be left out because of the current laws.

We explain what a will is, what happens if your older adult doesn’t have a will, and what happens when an estate goes through probate because there’s no will.

 

Advertisement


 

What is a will used for?

A will is a simple, inexpensive legal document that states someone’s final wishes.

It’s used by the county court to make sure those wishes are carried out.

Some people also use a will to:

  • Name an executor to carry out the terms of the will
  • Name someone to manage property left to minor children
  • Decide how debts and taxes will be paid
  • Provide for pets
  • Serve as a backup to a living trust

A will doesn’t cover every situation, but it’s much better than having nothing in place. Plus, a will saves family the headache and costs of a prolonged probate.

For more complex situations or to accomplish things that can’t be included in a will, it’s best to talk with a lawyer to see if a trust or estate plan would work better.

 

What happens when someone doesn’t have a will?

When someone dies without a will, it’s called dying “intestate.”

When that happens, none of the potential heirs has any say over who gets the estate (the assets and property).

When there’s no will, the estate goes into probate

Probate is a legal process in which the probate court uses the laws of the state to decide who inherits what.

Probate can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on how complicated the estate is.

Legal fees are paid out of the estate and it often gets expensive.

 

What happens when an estate without a will goes into probate?

The intestate succession laws that decide who will inherit are different in every state.

Usually, the estate will be split between the surviving spouse and children.

If someone is single with no kids, the state will decide which relatives will inherit. If no relatives can be found, the entire estate goes to the state.

Usually, only spouses, registered domestic partners, and blood relatives can inherit under intestate laws. Unmarried partners, friends, and charities get nothing.

 

Recommended for you:

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Team

 

This article wasn’t sponsored and doesn’t contain affiliate links. For more information, see How We Make Money.


14 Comments

  • Reply August 11, 2021

    JC

    If my entire family lives in another country and I die without a will, who gets all of my properties? Would my family get them or would the state? Thanks!

  • Reply May 28, 2021

    Amy Phan

    I am 50 on medicaid because of low income. My name is on the deed jointly with a family member. should I worry what happen to the house in regards to medicaid recovery and what Should I do ? Thank you.

  • Reply April 26, 2021

    CarmenMRodriguez

    My mom and dad passed away didn’t leave a will they didn’t have much but a house theres 6 siblings 5girls one boy and sence we can remember our parents said the house was being left to my brother but know one sister has moved in and wont leave and move all her kids and grandkids and giveing my brother a hard time my brother has never left the house allways lived there with our parents my sister has been married 3 times but all of asuddent she moves in doesnt pay anything bills food and acts like nothing my brother is loosing it what can we do to get her out please help

  • Reply April 8, 2021

    Mary Mares

    My mom died and left no will. There are 10 siblings, and the deed is under the youngest sibling but their seems to be sibling rivalry going on regarding the status of who owns the house. Since there is no will, can the house be sold and be divided so there wont be any more animosity. I think the house should be sold, that way it will end the madness. I feel that this house is causing more harm than good.

    • Reply April 8, 2021

      DailyCaring

      Hopefully this will be resolved in a way that works for everyone.

  • Reply March 4, 2021

    Bryan

    My sister died intestate (a will she had executed in 1998 naming her niece and nephews was declared invalid) 14 years ago and all of her assets, almost all of which she had inherited from our mother, passed to her husband who died intestate 7 years with no known heirs or living relatives. Do my sister’s siblings or her named heirs have a claim on the estate?

  • Reply February 8, 2021

    Edwina

    My dad died 7years ago was married to my mom but my dad left my mom for someone else and divorce her his been living with this other women for years he have a house in his name the girlfriend is renting the house out can she do so or are we as his children claim his estate my mom also passed away 3years ago

  • Reply September 14, 2020

    curtis wright

    I HAVE BEEN A CAREGIVER FOR AN ELDERLY LADY WHO SHARED A DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP WITH MY COUSIN IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. THEY MOVED TO SOUTH CAROLINA IN MAY 2005. HE DIED UNEXPECTEDLY ON HIS RETURN TO NY TO COMPLETE HIS TRANSFER. SHE WAS LEFT IN SC WITH NO FAMILY AND NO PLACE TO GO. HE DID NOT HAVE A WILL. COURT PROCEEDINGS GAVE HER LIFE ESTATE OF THE RESIDENCE IN WHICH NOW RESIDES. THERE HAVE BEEN ABSOLUTELY NO ASSISTANCE FROM HIS HEIRS (REMAINDERS) IN HER UPKEEP AND WELFARE. UPON HER DEATH (GOD FORBIDS) 90 YEARS NEXT MONTH DO I HAVE ANY STAKE WHAT HAPPENS TO THE RESIDENCE?

    • Reply September 15, 2020

      DailyCaring

      We’re so sorry to hear about this situation. To find out about your and your cousin’s legal rights, it’s best to contact an attorney.

Leave a Reply