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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

What If You Don’t Have a Will?

Far too many people put off writing their wills until it is too late. Some people just do not think it is appropriate for their situation, under this misguided concept that wills are only important for the wealthiest people. Other people just assume that they will have time to write a will later on, only to have the unexpected happen.

In reality, writing a will is important for all types of people because it is the only way to ensure that assets are divided properly and the family knows what your true wishes are for after you pass away. When you do not leave a will—or your family does not have access to your will—there are a variety of implications.

Why a Will Is Important

A will is important for a variety of reasons. Especially—but not exclusively—if you have a large asset, figuring out the proper division of assets among your heirs is an important part of estate planning. Should you forego the writing of a will, there is a good chance that some friends, relatives, and charities that you would have liked to include in the division of your assets will be left off the list. In the same way, the parties in charge of your will may divide among some people you may not have included in your will.

Having a will is also important for determining who will be in charge of the division of assets, as you will be able to name your executor. Especially if there is no natural party who would be in charge of dividing your assets, naming the proper executor may be an important part of organizing your estate.  Click here to view our will checklist to make sure you have all of the important factors covered.

What If There Is No Will

If you haven’t written a will, the implications will depend on the size of the estate.

In some situations, the resulting process may not be overly complicated. For single individuals with a limited estate in certain states, the state has provisions for the distribution of assets.

In most other cases, the estate will move into probate court for the proper distribution of assets. Probate court examines the estate and makes decisions regarding how the estate will be properly distributed, unless there is a surviving spouse. The court will pay off creditors, distribute the estate’s assets, and notify the appropriate heirs. Probate court is also required even when there is a will so that assets can be distributed accurately according to the individual’s wishes.

If the estate is below a certain size, court proceedings may not be required. Although certain individuals will still have rights to a portion of the estate, the family will need to determine what the appropriate distributions assets will be.

If Family Members Need to Locate the Will

There is also a chance that some individuals will make arrangements for a will without working with certain family members, particularly if those family members are not in regular contact with the individual. If there is a will and a family member simply needs access to the provisions of the document to ensure the proper division of assets.

If there is a will, the executor must supply the will to the superior court of the county in which the individual died before a certain amount of time has passed (for example, a month in certain states). When the court processes the will, it becomes a public record, and individuals may access the will by requesting it from probate court. This procedure is, of course, the same as the process the will would follow if the family were fully aware of the details, although it allows individuals separated from other heirs to access the will’s details.

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