It’s a common question from people who are still determining if their circumstances would obligate them to write a will. And the answer is a bit more complex than many people think. We have the straightforward basics you should know, and we’ll also include a few exceptional factors that could affect how you and your loved ones ultimately decide to approach end-of-life planning.
Here’s the direct answer to what happens if you die without a will:
Intestate is the word the courts use for those who die without any formal will or estate planning documents. In the state of Georgia, if you die intestate, your loved ones will be obligated to pay any outstanding debts, and whatever is left over goes to your closest living relatives. If you die without any living relatives, your assets go to the state.
What Does the Probate Process Look Like?
With or without a will, all assets that are not in a living trust will go through probate— where the courts decide how to disperse assets, including real estate, stocks, vehicles, and even sentimental assets like jewelry and other family heirlooms. This process can be lengthy and costly for the deceased’s loved ones— more so if there is no will to specify how to allocate your assets.
If you have loved ones that you expect to provide for through life insurance policies, inheritances in your name, and other financial assets, without a will in place, your beneficiaries won’t have access to those funds until the probate process is finalized.
Is a Will Going to Simplify the Probate Process After I’m Gone?
That depends on your individual circumstances. If you don’t have children or grandchildren to provide for, a will may be able to simplify the probate process. For a single person with no children or spouse and limited assets, who may want to ensure certain steps are taken after they pass away, such as caring for their animals, donating to an important charitable cause, or sharing assets among friends, a will is going to make sure your last wishes are clear.
In many cases, a will is only part of the complete estate plan you’ll need. If any of the following scenarios ring true for you, it may be a good time to discuss an estate plan with a qualified lawyer in your area.
Probate is Public
If you want to keep your financial affairs private, you will want to talk to an expert about the best way to avoid the probate process altogether.
Plan for Incapacitation
If you suffer a devastating illness or injury and aren’t able to make your wishes known, creating a living trust will help ensure that you have control over choices being made for you, including financial decisions and healthcare directives. With a thorough estate plan, they are clearly spelled out, so your family doesn’t have to wonder whether they are taking the right course of action for you.
Complicated Family Situations Call for Further Action
From blended families and children of divorce to squabbling siblings and even scammy opportunists, families aren’t always able to settle their disputes through probate, and the final decision made by the courts may not reflect your wishes.
Loved Ones with Special Needs Require Special Attention
Making additional provisions for children and adults with special needs calls for an extra component in your estate plan to ensure they are protected and provided for in the future. The law here can become very complicated. An estate planning lawyer can walk you through how to best provide for your family member while ensuring they qualify for state and federal programs that may benefit them.
Protect your Business with A Solid Plan
Working with a Georgia business lawyer can help ensure that you have the right plans in place to protect your business now and in the future.
Make Sure You Have a Plan That Works For You
Whatever your specific circumstances and estate planning needs are, the experts at Smith Barid can walk you through what to expect from the legal process and help you make practical decisions to put your mind at ease. Reach out today for a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.