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  • Writer's pictureChristine Kix

Do You Have a Will?

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

Talking about death is never pleasant, and thinking about one’s own death is even more uncomfortable. I guess that could be why a quick informal survey around my office revealed that a lot of people have not yet considered estate planning. I was surprised to even find that some colleagues who own real estate or have children don’t have a will.

What happens if a person dies without a will (known as dying intestate)?

Generally, when a person dies without a last will, the state’s intestacy laws determine what happens to the deceased’s stuff (the estate). Depending on the particular state, the estate may be distributed to a spouse, children, parents or siblings. Survivors have to go through the probate court system to have the estate distributed and this process can take months, and even years if the estate is complex or there are complicated familial relationships.

There are countless horror story accounts of what some survivors have gone through when a loved one has passed away without a will: years of court proceedings to have the estate released, thousands of dollars spent on attorney and appraiser fees, stepchildren left out of the distribution, and sneaky relatives trying to claim a portion of the estate. One such story that I came across on the Huffington Post (My Story: Why People Need Wills), was about an estranged spouse who came out of the woodwork to make claim against the estate of his estranged wife. In the end, the estranged husband was able to get his hands on his deceased wife’s assets. The brother of the deceased woman, the author of the article, poignantly writes at the end, “People may think that wills and attorneys are expensive. In the overall scheme of things, they really aren’t. I gladly would have paid ten times the average cost for my mother and sister to have had wills.”

Excerpt from post originally published on Madame Noire.

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