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What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Last Will and Testament
It's a question few of us want to contemplate: what if I pass away unexpectedly? What will happen to my family members, especially my children or my partner who depends on me for financial support?
Because the question is so morbid, some of us don't ask it until it's too late. However, it's never too early to start planning for what happens after you pass away, especially when you consider the consequences of not writing a will. By the end of the blog, you should understand how important a little planning now can be for your loved ones down the road.

What Is a Will?

Some people are unwilling to think about or draft a will because they're not entirely sure what one entails. A typical will includes:
  • Instructions on how your estate should pay any taxes or debts that remain after your death
  • Guidelines on who will care for any dependents, including children and pets
  • The name of the executor of the will. The executor is the person who has the right to carry out the instructions in the will itself.
You can only write a will if the law considers you "of sound mind," meaning you cannot be mentally incapacitated. Because of this condition, you shouldn't delay writing your will until the very end of your life - it's better to write one now, whether you're middle aged or growing toward your golden years. Then you and your loved ones can know you created the document in full knowledge of what you were doing.

What If You Don't Leave Behind These Instructions?

Now that you know what a typical will lists, you can see the issues that would arise without one. If you and your partner died suddenly, for instance, who would take care of your children - your parents? One of your siblings? Your partner's parents? The question is up in the air and could take some time to settle.
Similarly, if you die without a will, your dependents will have a lot of questions about who inherits which parts of your estate, not to mention who will pay property taxes and any remaining debts you have on credit cards, business loans or a refinanced house.

Are There Any Legal Protections for Your Loved Ones If You Die Without a Will?

The last thing your loved ones need after your death is to fight for their right to inherit your property. That's why several states, Kansas included, have laws of intestate succession, which determine how property is divided if you die without a will.
In Kansas, these laws dictate that if you die with children and no spouse, your children inherit all your assets. If you die with both a spouse and children, the spouse and children will split the assets 50/50. If you don't have children or a spouse, your parents will inherit your assets. If they've passed away, your siblings will inherit instead.
However, even though intestate laws make transferring certain assets after death straightforward, there are still several kinks you can only work out through a will.
For instance, without a will, you can't specify whether you want one person to inherit more than another or if you wanted to appoint one sibling as the executor of your will over another. The loved ones you leave behind will also have to decide who should take care of your children and pets if you pass away without any written directions for who should take care of the kids, how they should do so, and for how long they should do so.

Don't Leave Your Family in a Bind - Write a Will

Writing a will isn't the quickest process in the world, but you'll be surprised at how simple it can be when you work with the right lawyer. Instead of worrying about the future or running the risk of leaving behind a family without instructions on what to do after you pass, contact a lawyer today about drawing up an accurate will.
At Coffman, DeFries & Nothern P.A., we help Kansas individuals and families create estate plans that make things simple for the families they leave behind. Get in touch today to start work on your estate planning, including writing a will. 

Coffman, DeFries & Nothern, P.A.

534 S. Kansas Ave., Suite 925
​Topeka, KS 66603
Phone:  785-234-3461
Fax: 785-234-3363