No matter how old you are, it’s a good idea to have a will. Having a will helps prevent your family from having to go through the probate process if you pass away. That’s important, because probate can be long, drawn-out and frustrating for those who are already in mourning.
When you die without a will, your estate will be subject to the state’s distribution laws. Your estate, which will become an intestate estate, will be bound by those intestacy succession laws.
Who inherits your property if you pass away without a will?
If you pass away without a will and have only a spouse with no other descendants or parents, then your surviving spouse will inherit your probated estate. However, if your spouse and parents are alive, then your spouse will get your community property and their own separate property. They may then get up to half of the separate real estate. Your parents would receive the remaining balance of the estate.
If you have children and a spouse, your spouse received a third of your personal property and the right to your real estate for life. They will also receive all of your community property. However, the remaining balance will move on to your children. If your children are not biological, they receive a half-interest in the community property and any balance after the living spouse inherits a third of the separate personal property and the right to the real estate owned by the decedent.
Of course, this is all complex and can be confusing. If you have living siblings, don’t have any family, have a spouse or don’t have a spouse, the entire distribution of the estate may change. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have your own will or trust put into place. You want to be sure that your assets are distributed in the way that you want, not necessarily in the way the state provides for. Your attorney can help you put together a basic will as part of your estate plan, so you can be sure of your assets passing on to the right people.