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THE UNSETTLING REALITY OF DYING WITHOUT A WILL

Updated: Jan 31


Over the last few months in leading Financial Peace classes and working with individual clients and casual conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve come to learn that many do not have a will in place. You’d be surprised to learn that some who are well off financially have not taken the step to care for their estate in the event of their untimely death. 

This post is focused on what it looks like to die without a will in place.


If you are 18 and older, single, married or divorced and you don’t have a will in place or think you have one but can’t find it, I implore you to make this your top priority. I Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he had denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Ouch!! Don’t let that be you. In this new year, don’t let another day go by without taking this step. 


Death is an inevitable part of life, yet many of us shy away from contemplating our own mortality. However, it's crucial to address the question of what happens if you die without a will. A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the guardianship of your dependents after you pass away. Failing to create one can have far-reaching consequences, affecting not only your loved ones but also the legacy you leave behind. 


The Intestate Process:

When an individual dies without a will, their estate is considered "intestate." This means that the state steps in to determine the distribution of assets based on predefined rules. The process varies depending on the jurisdiction, but typically, the surviving spouse and closest relatives receive a share of the estate. 

However, the intestate process may not align with your wishes, leading to potential disputes among family members. Moreover, distant relatives you may not have wanted to inherit anything might receive a portion of your estate. A simple will could save your heirs and relatives a lot of angst and heartache if you had a will in place.


Uncertain Guardianship for Minor Children:

For parents of minor children, one of the most critical aspects of a will is appointing a guardian. If you die without a will, the court will decide who will assume the responsibility of caring for your children. This decision may not align with your values, beliefs, or preferences, potentially causing distress for your children and family. You know what is best for your children so don’t leave it to chance or to the government to determine who your children may end up with!


Lengthy and Costly Probate Process:

The probate process is the legal procedure by which a deceased person's estate is settled. When there's no will, the probate process becomes more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. The court must appoint an administrator to handle the distribution of assets, which may involve significant legal fees and delays.

Without clear instructions from a will, the court must verify the validity of claims against the estate, potentially leading to disputes and further delaying the distribution of assets to heirs. In some cases, the probate process can take months or even years to conclude, leaving your loved ones in financial limbo. If you put a will in place, be sure to name an executor that you completely trust to carry out your final wishes and oversee the distribution of your estate. 


Distribution of Assets:

Dying without a will means you forfeit control over how your assets are distributed. The intestate laws typically prioritize surviving spouses and children, but the distribution may not align with your desires. It may result in assets being divided in a way that does not reflect your relationships or financial priorities.


Unintended Beneficiaries:

In the absence of a will, assets may pass to unintended beneficiaries. This is particularly true in blended families or situations where relationships are complex. Without a clear directive from you, the distribution may not consider the dynamics of your family or reflect your true intentions.


Estate Taxes and Financial Implications:

A well-thought-out will can help minimize estate taxes, ensuring that your loved ones inherit more of your assets. Dying without a will might lead to increased tax liabilities, reducing the overall value of the estate left for your heirs.

Creating a will is not just about preparing for the inevitable; it's an act of love and consideration for those you leave behind. Dying without a will can lead to a host of complications, including family disputes, financial uncertainties, and a prolonged probate process. By taking the time to create a will, you can ensure that your wishes are honored, your loved ones are cared for, and your legacy is preserved according to your vision. Don't let procrastination deprive you and your family of the peace of mind that comes with proper estate planning.


Not knowing where to start can be complicated. While I’m not a lawyer and I do not provide legal advice, I can help point you in the right direction and encourage you to act. Feel free to contact me with any questions or schedule time on my calendar to have a quick chat.


Become A Better Steward,

Greg Carroll

Legacy Financial Coaching

 

Whether you are financially frustrated or have big money goals, I help you take control of your money so you can live debt-free, build wealth and better steward your resources to create a lasting legacy. Find out what its' like to Work With Me.

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