estate planning

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

A fully developed will is a crucial part of estate planning. When a will hasn’t been finalized before a person passes away, it leaves a lot of loose ends regarding their desires for their estate. What happens when a person dies without a will differs in every state, but the guide below covers the basic results. 


When a person dies without a will in place, intestacy takes place. Intestacy refers to the condition of a deceased person’s estate when its value exceeds the outstanding debts and there is no will in place. This can also happen if the will in place isn’t complete, or some areas of the estate are left out. 

The intestacy rules vary from one state to the next. However, it’s something that should be avoided when at all possible. Intestacy can leave a lot of areas of an estate tied up in legal processes, left in the wrong hands, or taken by the state. 

Intestacy and Your Money

If a person doesn’t have a will, your state’s intestate succession laws will determine where their money goes. This will require probate court, where a personal representative oversees the distribution of the funds. Without a will, the money will typically be paid out in the following priority: spouse first, then children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. 

Intestacy and Your Children

Suppose you pass away before finalizing a sill and have minor-age children. In that case, the kids will immediately go into state guardianship, assuming they don’t have another full-time legally recognized parent (such as your spouse). State judges will do their best to pick the best home for the kids, but this can be difficult to determine. 

Intestacy and Your Property

Under Federal law, your estate will be taxed 40 percent if its value exceeds $12.92 million. Any estate worth less than that is typically exempt from federal taxes. However, some states will take out taxes, especially if the estate doesn’t have a will. If an estate is worth more than $1.6 million, some states will tax it as much as 16 percent. 

Avoid Unwanted Intestacy – Finalize a Will

To avoid your estate being divided in ways you don’t want it to or going to people you want left out, you must have a finalized will before you die. The team at Gandhi Selim Law is here to walk you through the entire process and ensure your will precisely determines what you want to happen to your estate when you pass away. 

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Gandhi Selim Law

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