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An estate without a will: an explainer

We've talked about wills quite a bit on this blog in the past few months, and for good reason. A will is an incredibly important document, and everyone should have one. Additionally, there is no age early enough to start considering a will. Your will is the key to protecting your estate and establishing the rules regarding how your estate is handled.

However, we recognize that not every person in the world is going to have a will when they pass away. So what happens when someone dies without a will? What happens to their estate, and what rules govern the way their estate is handled?

When someone dies without a will, the individual is considered "intestate." This means that intestate laws will apply to that person's estate. Property that you own will be handled by the state where you reside under their intestate laws. If own property in other states, then the intestate laws in those states will govern that property.

It is important to note, though, that intestate laws will apply very differently from case to case depending on the circumstances of your life. If you are married or single, have children or not; there will be many different ways that the state passes your assets on to your heirs. Usually this will mean that each beneficiary will receive a share of the assets.

If you don't have a will, then you should consult with a lawyer and consider the ramifications of leaving your estate unprotected by a will. If you are an heir and are confused how your loved one's estate is being handled, then you should also talk to an attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens If You Die Without a Will?," Accessed Nov. 9, 2015

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