Death is a taboo idea that is generally not on people’s minds. However, it can happen at any given moment, so it is advisable to have a last will in place. A will determines who will get your assets when you die. You have the ultimate and final say if you create a will- but if you do not, it could be a nightmare for your family. Some terms you should know in regards to wills are as follows:

Intestate – This is the legal process that takes place if you die without a last will. If someone passes away without a last will, a legal will is substituted. The law of the state will then determine who will receive what items, rather than the deceased party having any say in the matter. The state now has control over where the deceased’s money, property, and personal heirlooms will be distributed, which can cause issues within families.

Personal Representative – This is a person named by the state to administer the estate. While it is usually a surviving spouse, anyone in the family can be a personal representative. The process of determining who will be the representative could take a while if the family cannot agree on the person. During this time, all the disputed assets are frozen, so it is advisable to make a decision as quickly as possible. Additionally, if no one in the family volunteers to be the personal representative, a public trustee will be appointed.

Single With No Will – If the deceased was a single individual with no children at the time of their death, then their parents will most likely be given all of their assets. Prior to any inheritance, as in all wills, any assets will first be used to pay off outstanding debts of the deceased.

Single With Children – First, a guardian will be assigned to the children of the deceased if they are underaged. The appointed guardian will almost always be a relative to the deceased. However, if they do not have a will in place, then the court will decide who will be the guardian. Even if they expressed before their death that they wanted it to be a specific family member, a will was necessary for the decision to be regarded after that party’s death.

Married – Typically speaking, the deceased’s estate will go to their spouse if they are alive and both own the estate when they die. This is referred to as “community property”. If this is not the case, then the estate will be divided up between the spouse, children, siblings, and parents.

Ultimately, if you die without a will, then your family will probably suffer. Family feuds are common when trying to determine who will receive what. It is much simpler if the deceased determines this since the receiving parties will not have as much of a say in the matter. Emotions are already running high after a death, so adding on to them could cause arguments between relatives. All of this- court costs, hearings, family fights – can be avoided in a manner of minutes by filling out a last will. Be in control of your estate at all times.

It is important to note that a last will can still be contested. If you believe that something is not right about the will, or you think that you have been cheated in any way, please feel free to call us at Fortman Law. We are here to help.

Law Office of Jonathan E. Fortman, LLC