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No Will? Here’s What Your Heirs Could Face

If you choose not to have a will or create one without the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, you could be leaving your heirs with a costly and complicated situation.

Without a valid will, state laws determine the distribution of your remaining assets. Generally, only spouses, civil partners, or close relatives are legally entitled to inherit from someone who dies intestate (without a will). As many estate planning attorneys say, if you don’t have a will, the state has one for you—but you might not like its terms.

A recent article in Influencive, titled “How Estate Planning Works for Those Who Die Without a Will,” delves into the complications that arise when someone dies without a will. Common concerns include: What happens to a mortgage if the mortgage holder dies? What becomes of a home when the owner passes away? What happens to a person’s bank accounts? How is the next of kin determined?

Here’s a brief overview:

1. **Mortgages and Property**: When a property owner with a mortgage dies, the creditor can claim repayment from the estate. If the estate lacks sufficient funds, the lender may initiate the sale of the property. For sole homeowners, the home’s transfer depends on the will, if available. Without a will, state intestacy laws dictate the transfer, specifying who the next of kin is.

2. **Jointly Owned Property**: If a couple jointly owns a home as joint tenants, the surviving partner inherits the other’s share. However, if they are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the deceased’s share.

To ensure a will is valid, it must meet four primary requirements:
– **Testamentary Intent**: The will must clearly indicate the testator’s intention.
– **Testamentary Capacity**: The testator must be mentally competent.
– **Free from Fraud, Duress, or Mistake**: The will must be created without external pressures or errors.
– **Proper Execution**: The will must be properly signed and witnessed.

Married and civil partners inherit assets according to intestacy rules, provided they were legally married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. Divorced individuals do not inherit under these rules.

Our estate attorneys can customize a plan for your family’s needs, advising on trusts and other mechanisms to simplify or expedite probate. Each will and state law is different. For personalized advice or to discuss your legal matters, contact us at (321) 729-0087.

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